These 14 Colleges Are Boosting Latino/a Student Success. Here’s How.

Nonprofit Excelencia in Education marked National Hispanic Heritage Month by recognizing 14 colleges and universities this year that have earned its Seal of Excelencia for serving Latino/a students.
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Published on October 13, 2023
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  • Excelencia in Education is a nonprofit focused on helping Latino/a students complete college.
  • Its Seal of Excelencia recognizes colleges and universities that go beyond enrollment numbers to demonstrate intentionality and impact in serving Latino/a students.
  • During National Hispanic Heritage Month 2023, the organization announced that nine institutions had earned the seal and five had been recertified for the seal.
  • Since it was initiated in 2018, 39 colleges and universities have earned the Seal of Excelencia.

Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit focused on helping Latino/a students complete college, recognized 14 colleges and universities this year for going beyond enrollment numbers to demonstrate intentionality and impact in serving Latino/a students.

As the nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month, the nonprofit announced that nine new higher education institutions have received its Seal of Excelencia, while five have been recertified for the recognition.

"There is a real difference between colleges and universities that enroll Latino students and those that intentionally serve them," Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education, said in a press release.

"Those that earn the Seal are trendsetters on a journey of transformation, showing what it takes to progressively increase positive outcomes for Latino, and all, students to compel others ready to meet the mission."

The seal has been awarded since 2018 to recognize colleges and universities working to accelerate Latino/a student success. It's awarded based on a framework meant to align and advance efforts to intentionally serve Latino/a students. Institutions were evaluated by data, practice, and leadership components.

These are the nine schools that received the recognition for the first time:

  • Angelo State University, San Angelo, Texas
  • California State University, Long Beach
  • California State University, Los Angeles
  • California State University, Northridge
  • Metropolitan State University of Denver
  • Phoenix College, Arizona
  • Richard J. Daley College, Chicago
  • St. Edward's University, Austin, Texas
  • Texas Woman's University, Denton, Texas

These are the five schools recertified for the Seal of Excelencia:

  • California State University, Sacramento
  • Long Beach City College, California
  • The University of Texas at Austin
  • The University of Texas at San Antonio
  • University of Illinois Chicago

Since it was initiated in 2018, 39 colleges and universities have earned the Seal of Excelencia.

These schools represent less than 1% of all higher education institutions, but they enroll over 15% of all Latino/a students and accounted for 17% of all Latino/a graduates nationwide in 2022, according to Excelencia in Education.

Across the country, the number of Hispanic and Latino/a people enrolled in college has increased and became a greater share of the total college student population.

According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Hispanic people ages 18-24 who are enrolled in college increased to 2.4 million in 2021, compared to 1.2 million in 2005. These students also represented nearly 20% of the total U.S. college student population in 2021, according to the bureau.

"College and university leaders who focus on student success generate momentum for the transformation of higher education," Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia in Education, said in the Excelencia in Education press release.

"Excelencia is proud to make common cause with these leaders. Through our network, we support and catalyze institutions striving to engage and graduate more Latino students."

Behind the Seal: Leading the Way in Serving Latino/a Students

To earn the Seal of Excelencia, institutions must go through a rigorous verification process to prove that they are committed to the success of their Latino/a student populations.

At the University of Texas at Austin, one of the newly recertified Seal of Excelencia schools, the percentage of Hispanic undergraduates rose to 28.2% this fall, up from 27.9% in fall 2022, according to the university.

Meanwhile, Hispanic students' first-year retention rate rose to 94.8%, and the four-year graduation rate increased to 68%, the university reported. The four-year graduation rate of Latino/a students at the school has also increased nearly 30% over the past 10 years.

The university's success can be traced, in part, to its Hispanic-Serving Institution Steering Committee, which launched in 2019 with the goal of fostering an inclusive and supportive campus environment to serve its increasingly diverse student population.

The committee produced a 2021 report outlining ways the university can support Latino/a students, staff, and faculty. The recommendations were eventually incorporated and aligned to the university's 10-year strategic plan and its strategic direction for an equitable and inclusive campus.

Other Seal of Excelencia institutions such as Metropolitan State University of Denver have worked for years to obtain federal recognition that showed their commitment to the education of Latino/a students.

In 2007, the university launched an effort to increase Latino/a enrollment to 25% of its student body when, at the time, Latino/a students only made up 14% of the university's undergraduate program. The university was recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education in 2019. And now the university reports that Latino/a students make up more than 35% of its student population.

Additionally, the grants provided through that HSI designation have allowed Metropolitan State University of Denver to provide professional development opportunities in culturally responsive teaching that prioritize serving Latino/a students, according to the university.

Leaders at California State University, Northridge, in a press release said the Excelencia in Education seal affirms its efforts to create and foster the conditions that accelerate Latino/a student success and, by extension, improve outcomes for all its students.

Latino/a students make up 57% of the approximately 36,000 students enrolled at the university, which is ranked first among public four-year universities for both the percentage of Latino/a students enrolled and the greatest number of bachelor's degrees earned by Latino/a students, according the university's press release.

"This recognition affirms that we are on the right path — the path of authentically serving our Latinx students by enabling their journey to a life forever transformed by a college degree," California State University, Northridge President Erika D. Beck said in the release.