Bright Spots in Hispanic Education

By Joey Mavity
September 24, 2015
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This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month marks the 25th anniversary of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. To celebrate, the White House has recognized institutions that serve as benchmark programs of innovation and effectiveness for increasing college participation and completion rates for Latina and Latino students. Take a look at the innovative programs four UIA universities are being recognized for—these could end up on other UIA campuses soon! 

Georgia State University 
The Latino Leadership Initiative is a collaboration between Cobb County School District (CCSD) and Georgia State University (GSU) to promote college readiness, college access, and leadership development among Latino students. Current GSU college students visit juniors and seniors at six Cobb County high schools throughout the year to answer their questions about college and encourage them through the application process. In these sessions, the college mentors touch on important topics like financial aid, scholarship opportunities, essay writing techniques, leadership, and professional development—all to help demystify the process for students. 

The Ohio State University 
Ohio State’s Latino and Latin American Space for Enrichment Research (LASER) was created because Latino student participation at Ohio State had remained marginal, despite large gains in Latino college enrollment nationwide and a rapidly growing Latino population in Ohio. LASER employs multiple strategies to build a seamless educational pipeline from high school through graduate education and beyond. LASER mentors serve as academic role models as well as bridge builders between Latinos in middle school and high school and Ohio State. To date, 200 Ohio State students have been trained to serve as mentors. Of the 80 high school mentees in 2014-15, five LASER Scholars earned Ohio State course credit through the statewide Post-Secondary Enrollment Option. Moreover, four LASER Scholars participated in the 2014 Ohio State Humanities & Cognitive Sciences High School Summer Institute, and 15 LASER Scholars were admitted to college for fall 2015. 

Oregon State University 
Families Involved in Education: Sociocultural Teaching and STEM is a collaboration between Oregon State University´s 4-H Youth Development program, the College of Education, local business, the local school district, and the Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis. The purposes of this model are: the exposure and recruitment of Latino youth in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) related programs; the engagement of pre-service teachers or student teachers in culturally and linguistically diverse settings; and the engagement of Latino families in culturally relevant STEM-related programming. 

The “Juntos” Program provides Latino parents and 8th-12th grade students with knowledge and resources to graduate from high school and gain access to college. This hands-on program is taught in either English or Spanish and meets for 2½ hours one evening per week for six weeks. Juntos also uses success coaches and college-age mentors to provide weekly afterschool clubs and activities with target students before and after the 6-week program. From the first generation of Juntos in Tillamook, Madras, and Culver, 100% of students graduated from school and 100% are attending college. 

University of California at Riverside 
At UC Riverside, the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences Learning Communities are designed to provide prospective science majors with first-quarter mentoring and new major transition advising. Their programs have resulted in greater academic success rates for undergraduate students who enter and graduate in science majors at UCR. These successes bode well for improved persistence and success in UCR's science majors, which provide critical access to STEM education and careers for a large number of low-income, first-generation, under-represented UC students, especially Hispanic students. CNAS Learning Communities have boosted initial GPAs by 0.3 and have increased freshman-to-sophomore-year retention to 95 percent. 

Parity in Graduation Rates
The national six-year graduation rate is 41 percent for Latinos and is 50 percent for Whites—a nine percent graduation gap. At UCR, there is virtually no graduation gap—in fact, graduation data from 2004-2012 show that Hispanic students graduated at a higher rate than White students. The suite of academic and advising programs targeted at low-income, first-generation students, UCR’s campus-wide commitment to student success, and a culture that accepts and encourages minority participation at all levels of campus life have created a positive learning environment for students. 

With President Obama’s ambitious goal of leading the world in the proportion of college graduates—and UIA’s own White House commitment to graduate an additional 68,000 students by 2025—our campuses are finding new ways to serve more students, with better results.