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Report and New Database Identify Successful Programming for Latinx Students


Excelencia in Education, an organization working for increased access and completion of Latinx students in postsecondary education, has released its latest report on programs that have qualitatively and quantitatively shown to improve and increase the success of Latinx students in higher education.

These programs hail from all across the nation and target students at varying stages on their educational journeys. Some connect with students and families while they attend K-12 schools. Others connect with students while they attend a college or university and counsel them toward a successful completion.

Report ScreencaptureThe report offers a glimpse at the over 200 successful programs Excelencia has catalogued in its database, which is publicly available on their website, Growing What Works. It can be searched by keyword, location, and Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status, achieved when student populations reach over 25% Latinx.

The Latinx population is the fastest growing demographic in the U.S., which is why Excelencia CEO Dr. Deborah Santiago said institutions and policy makers should pay attention to these programs to find out “what’s working,” and then “leverage what we know works.”

“It doesn’t always have to be the sexy new thing if it serves the growing community,” said Santiago. “This is an opportunity for institutions to take a step back and realize they do have examples for best practices they should invest in.”

The report contains not only program details but points of contact, intentionally making it easier for curious inquiry. Santiago acknowledged that “what works in Houston might not work in Little Rock,” but the database and report provide good places to start.

“There are good programs across the country — they’re doing the work, but not promoting themselves, because their extra dollar goes to the students,” said Santiago.

The report separates programs into five subsections of support: before college, first-year students, bilingualism that enhances connection to the community, partnerships and experiences that put students on career pathways, and gender-based learning communities.

Dr. Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education.Dr. Deborah Santiago, CEO of Excelencia in Education.One of the first-year programs Excelencia highlighted is Connect4Success (C4S), a collaboration between Miami Dade College (MDC) and Florida International University (FIU). C4S offers its students comprehensive onboarding, wraparound services, and a guaranteed transfer to non-specialized admissions programs at FIU, if the students complete their associate degree (AA) in three years or less. Adam Porro, executive director of First Year Development and Student Success at MDC, said that C4S’s support of students, from their first inquiry through graduation and transfer, resonates with their students.

“FIU and MDC share information on students interested in the program, and students are encouraged to apply to MDC once they complete the Connect4Success application,” said Porro. “It is truly a collaborative outreach model, and we focus our recruitment on the benefits of attending MDC and the wonderful access students have to FIU while at MDC.”

The program’s successes are clear in the data — C4S students have a higher rate of retention in both fall-to-spring semesters and fall-to-fall. Of the roughly 55% of C4S students who complete their AA at MDC in three years or less, over 70% continue on to their four-year education, and over 60% complete their bachelor’s degree at FIU.

“We are in a city where approximately 74% of students are Hispanic, and both [MDC and FIU] do a great job of connecting early and often with students,” said Porro. “At MDC, we continue to also cultivate a culture of care, with a focus on ensuring students have fewer barriers to support and communication. In my opinion, our ability to connect is the greatest selling point.”

Dr. Jimmy E. Hernández, executive director of Policy Analysis and Information at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), which supports HSIs across the nation, said that Excelencia’s new report is a “great resource, especially for HSIs who are striving to better serve these students.”

Hernández said these successful programs all combine three critical ingredients to achieve success: people, policy, and programs.

“When I think about Latinx and other underserved populations, its critical to have people, policies and programs that specifically address the needs of those students,” said Hernández. “You can have a strong program — it has components that are evidence based, they can move the needle when it comes to success for Latinx students — but if you don’t have the people or the policy in place, it’s a program that might not have the same impact.”

Liann Herder can be reached at [email protected].

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