Fourteen colleges and universities earned a national distinction this year for their efforts to enroll and retain Latino students in higher education.
Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit focused on helping Latinos complete college, awarded its 2023 Seal of Excelencia to institutions of higher education that “demonstrate intentionality and impact in serving Latino students while serving all.” The designation is for three years.
Nine institutions received it for the first time, and the other five were recertified.
The first-time recipients are: Angelo State University in Texas; California State University, Long Beach; California State University, Los Angeles; California State University, Northridge; Metropolitan State University of Denver; Phoenix College; Richard J. Daley College in Illinois; St. Edward’s University in Texas; and Texas Woman’s University.
The five that were recertified are: California State University, Sacramento; Long Beach City College in California; the University of Texas at Austin; the University of Texas at San Antonio; and the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“How do we help students reach their goals and meet them where they are? This is at the heart of the next phase of higher education,” Excelencia in Education co-founder and CEO Deborah Santiago said Tuesday in an interview with NBC News. Institutions have to return to this core focus, she emphasized.
The annual announcement by Excelencia coincides with a recent Lumina Foundation-Gallup poll that found Latino students struggle to remain in college more than those of other races and ethnicities. Half of all Latino college students reported that it was difficult to remain in their program in 2022, compared with 40% of Black and Asian students and 37% of white students.
Despite this, the Gallup poll also found that many unenrolled Latino individuals are considering or want to enroll in higher education. Around 53% of unenrolled Latinos have considered enrolling in a college or two-year program in 2022.
Removing barriers, reaching out
Angelo State University, one of the newly certified universities, was recognized for promoting efforts to facilitate college access for Latino, rural and other students and removing barriers to transferring because of loss of credits.
Another newly certified institution, California State University, Los Angeles, has a student body that is over 75% Latino, 55% first-generation students and 64% Pell grant recipients. Its Educational Opportunity Program serves first-generation, low-income students — 81% are Latino — through summer programs, counseling, peer mentorship and supplemental instruction.
Phoenix College was recognized for its efforts to reach out and engage with families to ensure “multiple generations are learning about higher education,” according to Excelencia. The college also hosts a course-based undergraduate research program to promote Latino representation in STEM research.
Excelencia in Education established the Seal of Excelencia framework in 2018 to serve as a self-assessment for institutions aiming to better serve Latino students. It tracks enrollment, retention and graduation rates of Hispanic students, as well as representation of Latino faculty.
The organization announced the recipients at a ceremony Friday in Washington, D.C. that was livestreamed and included virtual remarks by Education Secretary Miguel Cardona.
The newly selected colleges and universities join a total of 39 Seal-certified institutions. Though they represent around 5% of all institutions in the U.S., they collectively enrolled over 15% and graduated 17% of all Latino graduates nationwide in the most recent year.