Excelencia Policy Agenda

Excelencia’s Policy Agenda

Excelencia in Education
November 2020


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As the United States continues to confront the health pandemic and the longstanding epidemic of systemic inequities, addressing the strengths and needs of the Latino community disproportionately affected is key. Accelerating college degree attainment of the young and fast-growing Latino population provides a specific opportunity for the country.

Good policy is informed by good practice. The ability to serve Latino students at scale requires knowledge of the Latino student profile and what works to accelerate Latino student success. Policy must keep up with the evolving challenges and opportunities to serve students. To meet our mission of accelerating Latino student success, we must increase degree attainment and close equity gaps.

Guiding Principles

The following frame is an approach to reassess current federal policies using a Latino lens.

  • Efficiency in serving traditional students today can limit effectiveness in serving a majority of students tomorrow.
  • Increase educational and economic opportunity for all students, prioritizing access and success for low-income and underrepresented students.
  • Institutions that have a concentration of Latinos must transform to better serve the needs of the students they enroll.

Excelencia in Education’s Policy Priorities

Excelencia’s policy agenda advocates for policies to increase degree attainment and close equity gaps to accelerate Latino student success based on the current educational realities. In working with practitioners this past year, four issues were continually front and center in their daily efforts to support Latino student success: 1) affordability, 2) institutional capacity, 3) retention and transfer, and 4) workforce preparation.


To increase Latino student success, policymakers should address affordability, institutional capacity, retention and transfer, and workforce preparation in order to increase degree attainment and close equity gaps to accelerate Latino student success.


Many Latino students adjust their attendance patterns to fit into a financial aid system not built for them. Now, the pandemic has resulted in decreased incomes, making it harder to pay for college. The following would serve students broadly and would disproportionally benefit Latino students:

  • Strengthen the Pell Grant by doubling the Pell Grant and making it a fully mandatory program.
  • Simplify the financial aid system, including student loan repayment and emergency aid applications.
  • Improve Federal Work-Study by revising the federal campus-based aid distribution formula to more strategically support needy students, reducing administrative burdens to program participation, and increasing funding.
  • Allow DREAMers to access federal aid, including financial aid and emergency aid funding distributed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Institutional capacity

Hispanic-Serving Institutions enroll the overwhelming majority of Latino students, yet are low-resourced and face further budget cuts in the midst of an economic recession. The following recommendations would improve these institutions’ capacity to serve Latino students:

  • Prioritize and significantly increase financial support to institutions serving high numbers of students with financial need and count every student instead of using full-time equivalent.
  • Provide guaranteed funding to all Hispanic-Serving Institutions who meet the eligibility requirements for Title V grants.
  • Refocus and limit the allowable activities for Title III and V grants to better align with Latino student success and in an online environment.
  • Improve information about federal investment in Hispanic-Serving Institutions by increasing transparency around grant outcomes.

Retention and transfer

Latinos are not supported through the postsecondary pathways because they do not follow a traditional pathway—entering postsecondary education right after high school and graduating in four years from the institution where they first enrolled. Given the disproportionate vulnerability of Latinos because of the pandemic, these pathways are being further disrupted. The following recommendations address college pathways and priorities to retain Latino students:

  • Make transfer efforts an allowable activity for Higher Education Act Title V (Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program) grants.
  • Update federal data to better capture Latino students’ pathways and how federal funding impacts Latino student success.
  • Ensure access to reliable internet connectivity for students and commit to long-term broadband infrastructure investments.
  • Provide financial incentives to retain Latino students on their path to graduation.

Workforce preparation

The pandemic has shown that Latinos are overrepresented in the workforce but in jobs that are vulnerable and lower in pay. The following recommendations support Latino students’ successful transition to the workforce:

  • Leverage existing federal programs, such as Federal Work-Study, to support experiential learning opportunities for students.
  • Make workforce development an allowable activity for Title V grants to support institutions in creating workforce programs.
  • Incentivize engagement between employers and the institutions serving Latino students.


For more information, download Excelencia’s complete policy agenda below.

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