Latinos’ Degree Completion Has Increased but Acceleration Is Still Needed to Close Equity Gaps

August 11, 2020

Contact: Chino Chapa 214-669-4429

Excelencia in Education’s New Research Details Progress
in Closing Attainment Gaps Nationally and in States, Provides Benchmark
for Accelerating Latino Student Success in Higher Education
to Ensure America’s Future

Washington, D.C. – For the United States to close equity gaps in educational attainment, Latinos must earn 6.2 million degrees by 2030, according to new analysis by Excelencia in Education. While all groups will have to increase college degree attainment to meet college completion goals, increasing Latino educational attainment is crucial because their educational attainment is lower than other groups and the Latino population is rapidly expanding. Since Latinos will continue to make up a greater percent of the U.S. population, increasing Latino college completion is critical for the U.S. to meet its future civic and workforce needs.

The organization’s analysis highlights the top enrolling and graduating institutions nationally and by state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and reveals that prior to the pandemic, Latino student enrollment and degree completion was increasing.

“This analysis shows the progress Latinos were making nationally, and in every state, DC and Puerto Rico, before the pandemic,” said Deborah Santiago, Excelencia in Education Co-founder and CEO. “Now is the time to intensify our commitment to serving students and addressing the longstanding inequities more publicly visible. The current crisis has put another spotlight on why we must increase the number of doctors, scientists, educators, civic leaders and other workforce professionals from the growing and young Latino population.”

Higher education is changing, and we need institutional leadership and transformation to more intentionally serve Latino students now. Excelencia and our institutional partners recognize the necessity to increase degree attainment among Latinos in order to ensure America’s future. To close the equity gap in degree completion requires a tactical plan, at both national and state levels, to accelerate, not just increase, Latino degree attainment. Excelencia has developed a tactical plan to support institutional transformation based on data, evidence-based practice, and leadership with a Latino lens that calls for scaling up programs and initiatives that work for Latinos and other post-traditional students.

Sarita Brown, Excelencia in Education Co-founder and President, said, “Just like our network of Presidents for Latino Student Success, we keep moving forward as we cope with the pandemic and focus on student success. Our work continues because this is the time to strive for equity. We will ensure America’s future with the talent and energies of Latino college graduates. Excelencia is preparing for 2021 informed by data and with committed institutional leaders ready to serve Latino and other post-traditional students.”

Key findings in this analysis show:

  • Latino representation among students continues to grow in every state. In almost every state, the representation of Latinos enrolled in K-12 was higher than the representation of Latinos overall in a state. Nationally, one in four students in K-12 and one in five students enrolled in higher education, are Latino. However, outcomes in states and in institutions where they are located vary and create opportunities for more intentional action.
  • While Latinos’ degree attainment has grown, it is still significantly lower than White, non-Hispanics. Over the last ten years, Hispanic adults’ degree attainment has increased from 19% to 24%. However, the gap in educational attainment between Hispanic (24%) and white, non-Hispanic adults (46%) is significant—22%.
  • Nationally, the top institutions enrolling and awarding degrees to Latinos are concentrated geographically. While Latinos are in every state, the top three states with the largest Latino populations are California, Texas, and Florida. The top 5 institutions enrolling Latino students are in Florida and Texas. While California institutions are not in the top 5 institutions enrolling Latinos or awarding associate’s degrees, they are 3 of the top 5 institutions awarding bachelor’s degrees to Latinos
  • Latinos in some states and locations are graduating at a higher rate than Latinos nationally. In 26 states and locations, Latinos at four-year institutions graduate at a higher rate than Latinos nationally (51%).
  • Equity gaps in graduation rates persist between Latino students and their White, non-Hispanic peers—Hispanics graduate at a rate 2%-points lower at two-year institutions, and 12%-points lower at four-year institutions.

Excelencia will host a webinar, “Ensuring America’s Future: Increasing Latino College Completion,” on September 2, 2020 at 1:00pm EDT to discuss the implications and opportunity for intentional and equity-minded action by institutions to increase Latino college completion and reach the 2030 goal. We will also share our tactical plan based on data, practice, and leadership for institutional transformation.

Excelencia in Education conducted the analysis for Latino College Completion: United States with generous support from the Crimsonbridge Foundation. Danielle M. Reyes, Executive Director, Crimsonbridge Foundation, shared, "Excelencia in Education's Ensuring America's Future initiative provides valuable data and resources and creates the opportunity for funders, policy makers, and higher education leaders to take action towards increasing and supporting college student success."

Excelencia’s analysis is of the most recent data compiled by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), 2018 Fall Enrollment, Graduation Rates Survey, and Institutional Characteristics Survey. While Excelencia has analyzed and released this information since 2009 this is the organization’s first look at Latino college completion rates separated between two- and four-year institutions.

About Excelencia in Education
Excelencia in Education accelerates Latino student success in higher education by promoting Latino student achievement, conducting analysis to inform educational policies, and advancing institutional practices while collaborating with those committed and ready to meet the mission. Launched in 2004 in the nation’s capital, Excelencia is building a network of results-oriented educators and policymakers to address the U.S. economy’s need for a highly educated workforce and engaged civic leadership. For more information, visit: 

About Crimsonbridge Foundation
The Crimsonbridge Foundation is an entrepreneurial philanthropic organization that works across sectors to innovate, invest in, and create transformative solutions in education, leadership development, and capacity building to help our nation’s youth, families, and nonprofits succeed.



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