Is Tracking Latino Student Success Important? These Colleges Think It Matters

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In Latino culture, a diploma is a milestone in life. It is a promise we make to our parents and a tribute to those who sacrificed so much to get us here.

But what happens after graduation?

For several U.S. higher education institutions, tracking Latino students’ success after graduation is critical.

An analysis released this month by Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit group focused on boosting Latino college completion, describes how Hispanic-serving institutions are helping to redefine the role colleges play in students’ lives, even after they leave campus.

As reported by NBC News, the seven schools are Austin Community College, California State University-Fullerton, Long Beach City College, Texas State University, University of Arizona, University of Illinois Chicago, and Wilbur Wright College.

Teams at each campus worked for about half a year to conduct internal assessments of how they continue to serve their Latino students after graduation, or what the report calls “post-completion” of a degree.

According to the report, many schools have made progress in closing equity gaps in the success of their Latino students after graduation.

“We’ve said, for a number of years, we’ve got to get institutions to shift their work from simply enrolling Latino students to serving them with intentionality,” said Gabriel Bermea, a senior research analyst at Excelencia and the author of the analysis.

Despite the disproportionate impact of the pandemic, Latinos in the workforce are projected to reach 35.9 million and account for 78 percent of net new workers by 2030, the report explains. By the decade’s end, Latinos will represent 20 percent of the nation’s workforce.

As the country continues to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, institutions intentionally focused on serving their Hispanic students (HSIs) saw an opportunity to rethink their efforts to support Latino students, and all students, beyond degree attainment. Latino college enrollment is projected to increase over the next decade.

The report recognizes that Latino degree completers have made gains over the past five years at all certificate and degree levels.

In recognition of these changes, HSIs are in an excellent position to expand their strategy to promote Latino student success and take active steps to create learning experiences that encourage workforce readiness and foster Latino post-completion success.

From October 2021 to March 2022, Excelencia worked with the seven HSIs to complete and share a robust internal assessment of their post-completion success efforts. 

While institutional efforts to better understand post-completion success often focus on job readiness, these HSIs seek to develop strategies and practices that more intentionally serve Latino completers.

These institutions see their role as not only graduating students but also connecting completers with meaningful work and positive life outcomes.

The exercise found that allocating time, resources, and staff to support post-graduation success efforts is critical. Initiatives such as intentional partnerships and targeted programs increase post-completion success.

Through career mentorship tailored to Latino students, the HSIs also offer “professional identity affirming experiences,” the report says. The University of Arizona has a Latinx faculty and staff association, and Long Beach College has a transfer pathway program that has succeeded in increasing its number of Latino students over the past three years. 

Bermea said the findings demonstrate the practical lens through which Hispanic families view sending their children to college and how “these institutions recognize that.”

“Students are beginning with the end in mind,” he said. “The end isn’t completion. The end is post-completion.”

With information from NBC News.