Proud parent and daughter after graduation


What’s Working: Closing the Hispanic/Latino Student Completion Gap in Higher Ed

This article is part of the “What’s Working” series, which highlights promising practices for helping to close the graduation gap in communities and states across the country.

Here’s some good news: More Hispanic/Latino students are seeking college degrees than ever before in this country, and that number is only continuing to increase. But what happens to these students once they arrive on campus?

As America’s Promise reported a few months ago, Hispanic/Latino students may be enrolling in college at higher rates, but they’re significantly less likely to finish their degrees than their peers. A recent study from The Education Trust, a national education equity nonprofit, shows that the right on-campus factors can turn the tide for Hispanic/Latino students.

Examples from across the country and recent studies on the topic offer various approaches for improving graduation rates. Here are a few recommendations for colleges to help their Hispanic/Latino populations succeed.

Build Relationships

For decades, educators have known the significance of social relationships and communities on campus. This sense of belonging is particularly important for Hispanic/Latino students. When these students have access to Hispanic/Latino communities, they perform better and are more likely to graduate.

On the flip side, students of color who don’t have access to communities report feeling alone and unhappy, with significant negative impacts on their college achievement. Even students with higher degrees of college preparedness don’t perform well when they feel excluded from the learning environment.

Check out the Center for Promise study Turning Points to learn more about the importance of mentorship in building pathways to employment

Advising and mentorship also have significant positive impacts on the success of students of color and correlate to better social and academic experiences on campus. In recent years, many schools have developed hands-on, targeted advising programs to help students at higher risk of dropping out.

Recruit More Diverse Faculty, Staff, Administrators

While increased faculty diversity can benefit quality of learning for all students, as this report shows, it also has particular benefits to students of color. Hispanic/Latino students are better served in educational systems run by adults who represent them, and increased faculty and staff diversity has positive impacts on retention.

These adults often encourage a more welcoming campus environment and offer positive examples of achievement to students of color. A growing body of evidence suggests which research-based hiring practices have proved most effective in improving educational outcomes.

Develop Targeted Programs, Curricula, Opportunities

Percentage Point Gap between Latino and White Grad. Rates.In the past decade, many institutions have invested in developmental or remedial curricula for students who arrive on campus unprepared for college level coursework. By offering additional support and building skills and strategies, such programs help students who might otherwise fall farther behind and equip them to take advantage of academic opportunities.

Institutions can also work to diversify course offerings and curricula. A concentrated effort to broaden the goals, perspectives, and content of college curricula is linked to all kinds of benefits for students of color: higher retention, better critical thinking abilities, increased participation in civic life.

No Silver Bullet

While many institutions have committed to one or more of these strategies, Director of Higher Education Research and Data Analytics at the Education Trust and author of their report Andrew Nichols cautions against adhering to a generalized, one-size-fits-all approach.

“There really is no silver bullet magical solution to college completion,” he said. Each school’s climate and context is different, and practices that prove effective at one institution might not generate similar outcomes at another. Rather, schools must think carefully and critically about how to meet the challenges particular to their student body.

Improving outcomes for students of color comes down to committed leadership, Nichols added. Presidents, provosts, and boards must make Hispanic/Latino student success a “number one priority.”

“[They must] believe in the fact that all students can complete at equal rates.”

Learn more about the GradNation State Activation initiative

The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson to increase high school graduation rates by encouraging statewide innovation and collaboration, sharing that knowledge and replicating what works, and developing successful models all states can replicate.

Check out the latest research report from the initiative, I Came Here to Learn: The Achievements and Experiences of Massachusetts Students Whose First Language is Not English.

Join the GradNation Learning Community

To get more news about graduation rates and effective practices to increase them, join the GradNation Learning Community, a hub for sharing strategies and successful practices. Just send an email to [email protected] with your name, email address and organizational affiliation. To join the conversation on Twitter, use #GradNation