Six colleges and universities are being recognized for the first time for their focuses on and efforts to boost Latino college completion.
In 2019, Excelencia in Education, one of the country’s leading education think tanks focused on Latino college completion, first offered the Seal of Excelencia, a certification valid for three years that is earned by colleges that serve Latino students as demonstrated through data, evidence-based practices and leadership.
Six new institutions have earned Seals of Excelencia this year: Mercy College in New York City, San Antonio College in Texas, Texas State University in San Marcos, the University at Albany-State University of New York, the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the University of Texas at Arlington.
Mercy College is the first private Hispanic-serving institution to earn a seal. The school led private Hispanic-serving institutions in awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos for the 2019-20 academic year and helped provide its Latino students with pathways to graduation, including access to advising, financial literacy programs and a specialized STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) mentorship program, in which Latino students averaged 3.2 grade-point averages.
Nine schools are being recertified for the first time, Excelencia in Education announced at its Celebración de Excelencia event Friday: Arizona State University in Tempe, Austin Community College in Texas, California State University Channel Islands, El Paso Community College in Texas, Florida International University in Miami, Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan, South Texas College in McAllen, the University of Arizona in Tucson and the University of Texas at El Paso.
El Paso Community College, an institution serving almost 25,000 undergraduates, 85% of whom are Latino, was recertified for continuing to close equity gaps. Two of every 5 students are parents, and the college has implemented resources to coordinate child care, food pantries and lactation stations, and it will soon offer family resource centers, among other resources.
It was ranked first last year in granting degrees to Hispanic students among community colleges by Hispanic Outlook, a monthly education magazine. The school has earned the seal 16 years in a row.
“Excelencia continues making common cause with leaders from all sectors who recognize that supporting the success of today’s Latino college students grows our country’s talent and ensures America’s bright future,” Sarita Brown, a co-founder and the president of Excelencia, said in a statement to NBC News.
The 15 colleges join 15 other previously certified institutions, making up 30 certified institutions around the country that have enrolled 13% and graduated 14% of all Latinos in the U.S.
The seal and its certification process are part of Excelencia's efforts to close the education equity gap and support the country's workforce needs by boosting Latino higher education.
“Excelencia in Education created the Seal of Excelencia to differentiate institutions that became Hispanic-Serving Institutions because of demography and geography from those that are Hispanic-Serving because of intentionality and impact,” Deborah Santiago, a co-founder and the CEO of Excelencia in Education, said in a statement.
“The Seal provides a road map for all institutions, led by data, practice, and leadership, that does not end with the certification. It supports a path to intentionally making progress in serving Latino students,” Santiago said.