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Getting More Latino Students to Graduate from Selective Colleges

Smiling Latinos that have just graduated

Strengthening Latinos, a Large Part of Tomorrow's America

This is a staggering statistic:

By 2060, Latinos are projected to represent more than one third of all U.S. children.

It's a figure compiled by Excelencia in Education, a non-profit organization that analyzes Latino trends in U.S. education.

Low Attainment

Today, Latinos account for more than a fourth of all K-12 children. In some cities, it's over forty percent.

"It's a massive portion of our future American population in the education pipeline right now," says Deborah Santiago, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy at Excelencia. "But, when compared with other groups, educational attainment among Latinos is low."

(Pearson partners with Excelencia in putting on the Accelerating Latino Student Workshop (ALASS).)

Seeking Answers, An Unexpected Approach

Taking an unexpected approach, Deborah and her colleagues have just finished a study to understand some of the reasons behind low Latino educational attainment.

"From Selectivity to Success: Latinos at Selective Institutions" unpacks why such a small percentage of Latinos are enrolled in the most selective colleges and universities—despite the fact that Latinos fill such a large portion of the K-12 cohort.

With that research, the study asks three questions:

1 - What does Latino postsecondary enrollment and graduation look like at selective institutions?

2 - What do we know about these selective institutions where they enroll?

3 - Are the most selective institutions doing anything specific to serve Latino students that other institutions can learn from?

Answers to these questions, according to the report, could have a positive impact on America's future:

"As Latinos continue to be a significant and growing proportion of the American population, awareness and insight about the flow of Latino talent in to and through colleges and universities becomes increasingly more important."

Key Findings

cohort model

Deborah and her colleagues discovered three important things about Latinos matriculating through Stanford University, the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of La Verne:

1 - "Intentionality matters," she says. That is, when a school provides programs and services, are any of them focused on Latinos? "Many of these students are first in their family to attend college," Deborah says, "they might not see support as often as they could. So outreach makes a difference."

2 - "The cohort model works," she says. "Latinos are more likely to defer to a friend to think things through." Cohort models provide services to groups of students, versus one-on-one interaction. "These students learn together, share together, and evolve their awareness of the college experience together," Deborah says.

3 - "Use financial aid for retention as much as admission to school," she says. "It's not just about getting these Latino students in the door. Many of these students need financial help in their second and third year to help sustain their progress."

'It's Not Just About Money'

"It's no surprise that the schools with the most resources are able to tailor more programs to Latinos," Deborah says. "But it's not just about money."

"The more successful schools really engage their Latino constituencies and empower them to help each other," she says.

"They provide a lot of the recruitment and outreach and mentoring and support for Latinos," Deborah says.

"That doesn't cost a lot of money."


Excelencia in Education produced an infographic for its report. It can be found online here.

Excelencia Graphic