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Four higher education programs are recognized for boosting Latino college completion

The evidence-based efforts are in Puerto Rico, New Jersey, Texas and Indiana.
A student walks on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University, in Teaneck, N.J.
A student walks on the campus of Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, N.J.Barry Winiker / Getty Images file

Four higher education programs have been recognized for their evidence-based efforts to advance Latino college students’ success in the classroom and in the workforce.

The four programs were selected from a pool of 93 submissions and 20 finalists by Excelencia in Education, one of the country’s leading education think tanks focused on Latino college completion.

“It is important to celebrate what is working for Latino students on campuses and at community-based organizations in front of a national audience of practitioners, funders, and policymakers,” Deborah Santiago, a co-founder and the CEO of Excelencia in Education, said in a statement to NBC News.

The 2022 Examples of Excelencia are:

  • The Latino Promise and HACER programs at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, New Jersey (associate level).
  • The Institute of Interdisciplinary Research at the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey, Puerto Rico (baccalaureate level).
  • The master of science in environmental science program at the University of Texas at San Antonio (graduate level).
  • Postsecondary initiatives at Esperanza Inc. in Cleveland (community-based organization).

"We cannot normalize underachievement," Education Secretary Miguel Cardona said Thursday at Excelencia in Education's Celebración de Excelencia event at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C. "We cannot normalize nearly half of Latino college-goers' not completing their degrees. We cannot normalize systemic challenges."

Latino Promise and HACER (Hispanics Achieving College Education Recognition), sister programs at Fairleigh Dickinson University, were recognized for helping primarily first-generation college students complete associate degree programs in a timely manner and help them transfer into bachelor programs.

The programs recruited students in immigrant-heavy school districts to address educational, economic and social barriers.

The programs offer students the same curriculum, but Latino Promise offers English instruction, while HACER helps students preserve and improve their Spanish and English through ESL (English as a second language) bilingual coursework, eventually helping them move into English-only instruction.

Since 2010, Latino Promise has achieved a graduation rate of 40%, more than double the average graduation rate of Latino associate degree programs in New Jersey's two-year institutions (18%).

At the University of Puerto Rico in Cayey, the Institute of Interdisciplinary Research was touted for its focus on mentoring and undergraduate research.

The program supports students through a network of mentors, a coaching program, training, interdisciplinary courses, publication opportunities and professional development.

Financial resources helped support students during the coronavirus pandemic, including aid for tuition costs and enrollment stipends.

Undergraduate research participants have graduated at higher rates (90%) than the institutional graduation rates (50%) from 2015 to 2018. Of the program's participants who applied to graduate school, 92% were accepted, more than double the rate for overall student body that applied to graduate school in the same period.

The master of science in environmental science program at the University of Texas at San Antonio was recognized for boosting graduation rates and thesis completion, as well as for its competitive job placement and its curriculum focused on encouraging students to take leadership positions in the field.

The graduate program more than doubled the number of enrolled Latino students over the last three years. Since 2017, retention among Latino students has increased by 7%, and 45% of Latino participants completed the thesis track.

The program also helps students tackle imposter syndrome through mentoring and professional programs, among other resources.

Esperanza Inc. is a community-based organization specializing in Latino postsecondary education in greater Cleveland.

After the organization's success in high school programming, it expanded into postsecondary support in 2016. Students participate in workshops, get internship support and apply for scholarships.

The program's retention rate among Latino students is 90%, and it has maintained a stable rate through the pandemic, 31% higher than the national rate and 22% higher than the rate for students overall.

The 2022 Examples of Excelencia mark the 17th annual recognition of programs that help boost Latino college completion. Since 2005, Excelencia has received more than 1,900 program submissions. Previous finalists are available online in Excelencia's searchable database.

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