[lg policy] Nonprofit Group Provides Road Map to Increase Hispanic Degree Attainment

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at GMAIL.COM
Wed Mar 9 15:30:53 UTC 2011

Nonprofit Group Provides Road Map to Increase Hispanic Degree Attainment

By Jennifer Gonzalez


Excelencia in Education released a sweeping policy road map on
Wednesday explaining how it believes communities, colleges, states,
and the federal government can increase Hispanic graduation rates—a
key component of meeting the nation's college-completion goals. The
road map recommends that colleges focus their policy work on
increasing retention for working students, growing early-college high
schools and dual-enrollment programs, and guaranteeing need-based aid
for qualified students. With Hispanics poised to make up 20 percent of
18- to 64-year-olds by 2020, the road map says that work is crucial.

In addition to a host of policy recommendations, the road map includes
a profile of Hispanic undergraduates that counters misperceptions;
benchmarking data to track progress in meeting attainment goals; and
examples of efforts that "move the needle" on Hispanic degree
attainment. For example, to increase student retention, the
Universidad del Sagrado Corazón in Puerto Rico offers
general-education courses online as a backup system for students in
good academic standing with unexpected work-schedule changes during a

The University of Texas at El Paso's Promise Plan covers all tuition
and mandatory fees for students with family incomes of $30,000 or less
who are Texas residents, complete 30 credits a year, and earn a
grade-point average of 2.0 or higher.

'A Call to Action'

The road map is the culmination of more than a year's worth of work in
which 60 organizations, including Jobs for the Future and Project Grad
USA, joined Excelencia in its project, called Ensuring America's
Future by Increasing Latino College Completion. The project is
financially supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the
Lumina Foundation for Education, and the Kresge Foundation. "We want
the road map to be a call to action," said Deborah A. Santiago, vice
president for policy and research at Excelencia. "We need to make sure
that Latinos are included in the college-completion dialogue."

President Obama has set an ambitious goal for the United States to
become the top-ranked country in the world in college-degree
attainment by 2020. To reach 51-percent college-degree attainment and
become the world leader, projections show the United States will need
36 million degrees.

Hispanics will have to earn 5.5 million degrees to close the
achievement gap and help the nation move toward that goal, according
to Excelencia. Right now, Hispanic people represent about 15 percent
of the population of the United States and 12 percent of undergraduate
students in higher education.

Among the federal policy recommendations, the road map argues that the
government should require appropriate training and materials for
loan-default management and financial literacy. Better training and
quality materials can help institutions improve their financial-aid
strategies to better serve low-income students and provide them with
the options they need to make effective aid choices, Excelencia
officials said. Financial-literacy programs that focus on low-income
students can help these students manage their financial-aid options.

Central to the road map is ensuring that policy makers have a clear
understanding of who Hispanic students are. Excelencia officials
contend that public perceptions of Hispanic students—and thus, the
programs and policy efforts aimed at them—are often guided by a
limited and inaccurate profile.

"We don't want policy work to be done on the margins," Ms. Santiago said.

For example, it is commonly assumed that the majority of Hispanics are
immigrants, high-school dropouts, and English-language learners. In
fact, the figures underscore a different picture, according to a 2009
Excelencia report that found that close to 90 percent of Hispanic
students enrolled in primary and secondary school were born in the
United States and that more than 80 percent of Hispanic school-age
children spoke English with no difficulty.

Hispanic high-school graduation rates range from 21 percent to 40
percent, depending on the study. However, in 2008, Census data showed
than 67 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 had completed high school.

In September, Excelencia plans to release some early information on
the progress of its project.


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