Seal of Excelencia

2021 Seal of Excelencia

Seal of Excelencia certified institutions have been able to articulate and demonstrate they are modeling the behavior we need to see to accelerate Latino student success. They are having measurable impact in changing the face of higher education.

Deborah Santiago, CEO, Excelencia in Education


Return to Seal of Excelencia Main Page



2021 Institutions Earning the Certification

Seal of Excelencia certification 2021 recipients


Excelencia in Education recognized these colleges and universities for intentionally SERVING Latino students and for demonstrating positive student outcomes.

Hear what institutional leaders say about earning the Seal of Excelencia certification.

Read the news release.


California State University, Fresno • California State University, Fullerton • Miami Dade College
University of California, Riverside • University of Central Florida • The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
Wilbur Wright CollegeUniversity of California, MercedTexas A&M San AntonioSan Diego State University


California State University, Fresno (Fresno State) - CA

Fresno State enrolls over 19,000 undergraduates and is the largest 4-year institution in California’s San Joaquin Central Valley, a heavy agricultural region. Of students, 55% are Latino and 67% are first generation college students. Fresno State charges the lowest fees in the California State University system to remain affordable since 41% of entering students come from families with incomes below $48,000.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Transfer innovation in teacher education and Post-graduation success

Fresno State’s South Valley Integrated Teacher Education Program (ITEP) advances its commitment to innovative programs that contribute to students’ lifelong success. ITEP is a transfer program and addresses the critical need for qualified teachers by helping future teachers from South Valley complete the first two years of their program at one of three local community colleges and their remaining coursework in an accelerated two-year program at Fresno State’s Visalia campus. About 70% of ITEP participants are Latino and students are able to complete their BA and teaching credential 1.5 years faster than non-ITEP students and save the one-hour trip to Fresno State several times per week. Further, ITEP students saw much higher two-year graduation rates than their peers, with 83% of the 2020 cohort graduating in two years compared to 70% of general Liberal Studies transfers and 37% of all university transfers from the same cohort.

The university supports post-graduation success by providing worked-based experiences for students through collaboration with business partners. The Valley Industry Partnership for Cooperative Education (VIP) program offers a paid internship program to engineering, construction management and industrial technology students. Students complete two, six month internships throughout their college careers. This allows students to gain the necessary experience to be “job-ready” when they enter the workforce upon graduation. The program supports the infrastructure and growth of Central California by producing graduates who understand the technological challenges in modern agriculture and manufacturing. The VIP program is funded by the 28 companies that pay a membership fee in order to be included in the program and get connected with quality interns. In the last four years, the program has scaled up to add 10 new participating companies. Since 2016, almost 40% of students in the program have been Latino and their graduation rate in the program is 72%, compared to the 48% rate for all students in the College of Engineering.


Click here to view the Fresno State institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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California State University, Fullerton (Cal State Fullerton) - CA

Cal State Fullerton enrolls more than 40,000 students, of which 46% are Hispanic and 70% receive financial aid. The university is No. 2 in the state and No. 4 in the nation for awarding bachelor’s degrees to Hispanic students. Cal State Fullerton leverages partnerships with the local community to provide research opportunities, internships, and other hands-on learning experiences for students.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Cohort-based scholar programs and representative faculty recruitment

The Center for Scholars (CFS) provides direct and indirect support to enable students to focus on their academics through a combination of scholarship aid, comprehensive programming, and wraparound services for student success. Every academic year, cohort-based scholar programs serve nearly 500 students; over 60% are Latinx. Each scholar group has designated advisers who regularly meet with students to assess their needs and provide academic and socio-emotional support. Each program also has access to emergency funding that alleviates financial pressures related to basic needs and provides other support services such as specialized academic advising, student life activities, mentoring, and campuswide connections. The program sees strong persistence rates for CFS students, with over 90% of Latinx students persisting to the next academic year. First-year retention rates are also essential to note, with a 91% average year-one retention rate for first-year Latinx students and the average year-two retention rate for first-year Latinx students in CFS is 92% over three years.

Cal State Fullerton’s strategic faculty recruitment and hiring initiative supports the representation of Latinx faculty and administration. The initiative infuses high-impact practices into the search process by providing colleges and departments with in-depth training and support on such topics as diversification of applicant pools, anti-bias techniques, and equitable and inclusive candidate evaluation. This benefits Latinx students by raising awareness of the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion among faculty; demonstrating the university’s commitment to inclusive excellence in candidate applications, and increasing the overall number of Latinx faculty on campus. CSUF sustains the strategic faculty recruitment and hiring initiative with a full-time position dedicated to this work (faculty diversity officer), $5,000 allocated to departments for each faculty search, and continuous improvement of the associated workshops and training sessions. To date, 191 participants have engaged in the search committee training sessions.The minority faculty new hire rate has risen from 22% in 2017 to 53% in 2020. In spring 2021, 22% of newly hired faculty were Latinx. Efforts continue to ensure Latinx faculty representation is more equitable.


Click here to view the Cal State Fullerton institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Miami Dade College (MDC) - FL

MDC enrolls almost 90,000 students, and the student population mirrors the county’s population with 72% being Hispanic. In addition, 51% are first generation college students, 43% come from households with incomes below the poverty line, and 78% work while attending college. The college leads Florida in economic mobility and in 2019-20 awarded 16,650 degrees.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Honors dual language programs and intentional student guidance

The Honors College Dual Language Program gives our Hispanic students tremendous social and economic advantages in today’s global marketplace by offering classes in both English and Spanish. Research shows that students who are bilingual reap increased cognitive, personal, and social development skills, become more marketable in the workplace, and have expanded job opportunities. The importance of being bilingual cannot be understated at a global scale, but in Miami Dade County where most residents are Hispanic and employers are bilingual as well. This program has become part of the Honor College’s operations and has been fully sustained for years. The program has maintained a 100% fall-to-spring retention rate, higher than any of the other Honors College cohorts at the College. The Dual Language Program’s fall-to-fall retention rate is 98% surpassing the retention rates of the other Honors College cohorts, which range from 72% to 84%. The Dual Language Program completion rates are 95% (Summer 2019 data) compared to 68-72% for the other Honors College cohorts and 90% (Summer 2020 data - during the pandemic) compared to 64-83% for other Honors College cohorts.

Shark Path is an intentional weave of strategies, programs, activities, and interventions that guides students at every stage of their journey from admissions to completion. Serving mainly Hispanic students, Shark Path integrates the three-tiered advisement model with a Pre-College Advisor during the application and onboarding processes, an Assigned Advisor up to the 25% benchmark, and a College Mentor all the way to completion. In the last three years, MDC has served 50,000 students. Shark Path's effectiveness is evident in the increase of enrollment and retention rates.
• The average Fall-to-Spring retention rates increased to 91% for Hispanic students compared to 87% for white non-Hispanic students.
• The average Fall-to-Fall retention rates increased to 75% for Hispanic students compared to 69% for white non-Hispanic students.
• In addition, 94% of Hispanic students declared a program of study with the implementation of Shark Path, and there was an overall increase in 150% completion rate for all students of 5 percentage points (from 31% to 36%).


Click here to view the MDC institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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University of California, Riverside (UC Riverside) - CA

UC Riverside enrolls more than 22,000 undergraduates, including over 10,000 Chicano/Latino students, 80% of which identify as first-generation. The number of Chicano/Latino graduates has tripled from 942 in 2009-10 to 2,825 in 2019-20, and the 6-year graduation rate for Chicano/Latino undergraduates is 73% compared to the national average of 54%.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Integrated transfer path and research opportunities

UCR’s commitment to transfers has been key to its success with enrolling and graduating Chicano/Latino students. The university offers a clear path for community college transfers through a comprehensive set of successful tools and programs that facilitate their application and enrollment, including: UCR Transfer Pathways, a Transfer Admission Guarantee; the Puente Project; Transfer Admission Planner; a Majors Preparation Guide; and, ASSIST, a system that provides up-to-date information on transfer agreements honored by UCR. The Transfer Student Task Force of 2017 built on these programs by establishing a 2:1 enrollment ratio of entering freshmen to community college transfers. This resulted in a 44% increase in Hispanic transfer student enrollment from 2017-18 to 2018-19.

The university offers a number of programs that support Chicano/Latino student completion goals and prepares them for medical school, teacher preparation, and careers of critical need. Programs like the California Alliance for Minority Participation (CAMP), an NSF Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation Program, the UC Riverside MARC U Star Undergraduate Research Program (U-MARC), and the Mentoring Summer Research Internship Program (MSRIP) serve Latino students by providing research opportunities, financial support, and faculty mentoring. The CalTeach-SMI program partners with local, predominantly Latino school districts to provide mentoring opportunities for future STEM teachers. These programs have contributed to a 48% increase in the graduation of Latino students from 2016-17 to 2020-21.


Click here to view the UC Riverside institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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University of Central Florida (UCF) - FL

At UCF, minoritized students represent 48.5 percent of our student body and student enrollment reflects the area it serves. Latinos make up 29% of its undergraduate enrollment of over 60,000. UCF is one of three Hispanic-Serving Research Institutions in Florida, and believes innovation comes from the meeting of diverse viewpoints.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Leadership track and transfer pathway

LEAD is a selective two-year academic leadership development program inclusive of several high-impact practices such as: a cohort-based first-year seminar, a living-learning community, service-learning classes, and a capstone course. As an academic contribution to UCF’s HSI identity, LEAD launched a Latinx Leadership track (U-LEAD) for upperclassmen students (60+ credit hours). These classes provide students with the opportunity to learn a new leadership framework, complete research on Latinx topics, and commit to service-learning opportunities in the Latinx community. Latinx LEAD and U-LEAD students have stronger retention and graduation rates when compared to the general UCF population. The 2019-2020 retention rate for Latinx FTIC students in the LEAD first-year cohort is 95% compared to 92% for the UCF FTIC general population. The 4-year graduation rate for Latinx FTIC students in the LEAD first-year cohort is 58% compared to 46% for the UCF FTIC general population. The 2-year graduation rate for Latinx transfer students in the U-LEAD program (60+ credits) is 22% compared to 16% for UCF transfer students in general.

UCF reduces barriers and ensures the success of Latino transfers through several partnership programs. The DirectConnect to UCF program is a partnership with six Florida state colleges that seeks to reduce barriers for transfer students by offering a guaranteed admissions and transfer readiness program. In addition, success coaching is a practice that embeds UCF trained professionals at partner institutions as success coaches who can assist prospective students with application and enrollment processes. Intentional efforts have also been made to connect more Latino students and their families to resources that facilitate a seamless transfer to UCF, such as the revamped DC website that now includes a language translator to Spanish and other languages. For Fall 2020, 30% of total new enrollment at UCF was DC transfer students, 35% of which are DC Latino students. Also, more than 52% of newly enrolled DC undergraduates were Pell eligible compared to the 30% overall newly enrolled Pell eligible undergraduates.


Click here to view the UCF institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) - TX

The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is a comprehensive academic institution of higher education located in South Texas, along the Texas-Mexico border. In fall 2020, UTRGV enrolled 27,272 undergraduate students, with a significant proportion of the undergraduate population identifying as first-generation college students. Over 90% of the student body identifies as Hispanic/Latino, mirroring the population of their primary service region.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Bilingual institute and tuition support

UTRGV is committed to being a model bilingual, bicultural, biliterate institution and has embraced the historical and cultural heritage of the region it serves by building curricula and programming that reflect the strategic advantages of the region. The Bilingual, Bicultural & Biliterate (B3) Institute has increased courses offered in Spanish or bilingually by almost 12%. The variety of courses and programs provide students whose first or second language is Spanish with the opportunity to master academic content in both Spanish and English.

UTRGV’s overarching financial support strategy maximizes financial support while minimizing student debt. Programs like the UTRGV Tuition Advantage program provide an opportunity for qualified students to have the cost of tuition and mandatory fees covered in their entirety, allowing them to graduate with little or no debt. Additional practices like guaranteed (“frozen”) tuition, capped tuition schedule at 12 hours, and significantly funded work study program has increased retention rates to above 75% for Latino students.


Click here to view the UTRGV institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Wilbur Wright College (Wright College) - IL

Wilbur Wright College is an HSI institution in the Northwest of the city of Chicago. Of 6,000 students enrolled in spring 2021, 58% were Hispanic, 7% Black, and 8% Asian. The college awarded 1,900 degrees and certificates in 2019-20 and in 2020 it was also the recipient of the Campus Compact’s Eduardo J Padron award for institutional transformation.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Scholarships for progress and college preparation

The Chicago Star Scholarship Program has supported the progress of Latino students’ enrollment, retention, completion and transfer. The scholarship provides tuition and books for degree completion. Embedded transfer partners support and enhance with scholarships the transition of Star scholars to the university. At Wright College, a designated team monitors and tracks Star scholars from the point of recruitment to completion and transfer on a biweekly basis. Latino Star scholar graduates are highlighted in the Transfer Success Stories publication; they serve as inspiration and role models for incoming Latino Stars. We develop a sense of community within the Star scholars to foster engagement within and outside the campus community by hosting key events throughout the semester. The effectiveness of the program is evident in the academic performance of the Stars whose average GPA is 2.9, higher than both the City Colleges of Chicago general student population and other CCC Star scholars. For the Latinx Stars the average GPA is 2.9 as well. The retention rate of the Star scholars at Wright has been over 85% and for Latinx Stars the retention has been 84%, the IPEDS graduation rate has reached 48% and the transfer rate 52% within two years of degree completion. For the Latinx Stars the transfer rate is at 65%.

Wright College has been intentional about providing more Early College opportunities (dual enrollment and dual credit) to more high schools with large populations of Latinx students. More than 1,000 high school students annually participate. Wright recruiters and admissions specialists (bilingual and trained in cultural competencies) work alongside the faculty, administrators and high school teachers to ensure access to information and access to authentic college education to Latinx students. This also involves providing information and support to the families of students. Wright has fifteen Dual Credit high schools partners and many more high schools students participating in the Dual Enrollment program. Wright started offering bilingual programming - Noche de Familia - to highlight college information in Spanish to parents/guardians. Most students are the first in their family to attend college and most students identify as Latinx. The program has resulted in a 34% increase in the total number of Early College Students enrolling for the past five years with an average of 59% identifying as Hispanic for the past five years.


Click here to view the Wright College institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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University of California, Merced (UC Merced) - CA

Founded in 2005, UC Merced expanded the University of California’s commitment to the San Joaquin Valley, a region approximately 50% Latino. The most diverse of the UC system, UC Merced enrolls 8,194 undergraduates, 58% of which are Latino, 73% are first generation college students, and 63% are Federal Pell Grant recipients. Its most recent 6-year Latino graduation rate is 64% compared to the overall national graduation rate of 58%.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Pathway to admission and holistic academic advising

The pathway from admissions to Day 1 on campus ensures students feel a connection with UC Merced and quickly understand the supportive network available to them.UC Merced implements a series of services to drive enrollment and persistence, focusing on both outreach and post submitting their Statement of Intent to Register (SIR). From the Diversity Inclusive Webinar outreach series, to New Student Orientation with a Spanish track, to showcasing Latino student leaders and their organizations, to the Bobcat Calling campaign that minimizes summer melt (and answers questions for first-generation, low-income students) -- the focus is on targeted, tailored, and frequent touchpoints. Student success is targeted through multichannel communication to parents and students, online events and individualized services. Since 2011, applications from Latinos have increased by 83%, and Latinos choose to enroll at a higher rate than all other ethnic groups. Currently, our Latino student enrollment deposits have increased to a total of 1,861 incoming Latino students for the fall of 2021. In 2021 alone, the Bobcat callers in the Bobcat Caller program made 14,983 calls to admitted students and their families. For fall 2020, ethnicity was significantly associated with overall melt. We found that Latino students were less likely to melt overall (19%) than Asian American students (27%). In 2018, rates were not significantly different by group, but by 2019, Latino students had significantly lower melt rates than Asian American students.

The School of Social Science and Humanities (SSHA) is UC Merced’s largest school with about 3,662 students (64% identifying as Latino). SSHA has implemented a multi-pronged academic advising approach for undergraduate academic success consisting of: 1) the Mid-Semester Grade Intervention (a SMART goal check-in for students who have 2 or more non-passing grades); 2) the Academic Difficulty Support Meetings to help students return to good academic standing by the end of the semester; and 3) the Jump Start Your 3rd Year where students receive second-year advising to understand which outstanding degree requirements to complete. The strong Latino representation in SSHA has also increased demand for Latino-specific sponsored events and projects, including the Bilingual Ricardo El Segundo (Spanish Shakespeare), Luce Grant projects to support oral history projects for Spanish speaking communities, and UC Office of the President funded undergraduate research opportunities. SSHA’s comprehensive advising efforts have contributed to higher retention rates compared to university-wide retention rates. In 2019, SSHA had an 86% Latino second year retention rate compared to the 85% Latino retention rate for the university overall. SSHA’s academic advising support coupled with other support services reveal a stable, steady incline in SSHA Latino retention to 2nd year over the past 5 years (from 82% in 2016 to 86% in 2019). The intentionality of this academic advising initiative is intertwined with SSHA’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion strategic plan Goal 1a to increase the representation of underrepresented faculty and staff within the school.


Click here to view the UC Merced institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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Texas A&M San Antonio (A&M-SA) - TX

Texas A&M University-San Antonio (A&M-SA) was founded to improve educational access to the largely Latino community in the South Side of San Antonio, long underserved and underrepresented in higher education. A&M-San Antonio’s first graduating class of 52 students crossed the stage in 2003. In 2019-20, 78% of its 6,037 undergraduate population and 72% of 1,405 graduates in the Class of 2020 identified as Latino.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: Network solutions and integrated student-centered pathways

The mission to intentionally serve Latino students continues to be a part of every phase of the development of the university. A 2019 study of Bexar County’s demographics and educational attainment resulted in the formation of the ASPIRE network, which focuses on customized solutions for the needs of each of the seven school districts in the study. Hispanic enrollment in the ASPIRE school districts ranged from 74% to 98%, with all but two above 90%. Educational attainment (BA or higher) by those aged 25 years or older ranged between 5% and 18%, with five districts below 8%, compared to eight non-ASPIRE districts which ranged from 14% to 68%, with six above 34%.

A&M-SA’s student-centered approach meets students where they are with intentional and holistic onboarding pathways based on close collaboration between student support departments across the university. Latino degree completion is predicated on developing sense of belonging through intentional connections with peers, staff, and faculty that include the following practices: 1) academic coaches connect throughout the summer before enrollment and link students to other on-campus resources; 2) Financial Literacy Fellows, trained peer leaders, provide individual Money Coaching sessions; 3) peer leaders are embedded into freshman seminars and attend every class; and, 4) a Faculty Advising Program pairs one faculty member with four incoming students for their entire first year.


Click here to view the A&M-SA institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.


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San Diego State University (SDSU) - CA

Situated near the US/Mexico border, SDSU is both an HSI and a Carnegie Foundation designated institution with High Research Activity. SDSU is the third-largest university in California, serving 35,587 students, 29% Latino, and 29% Pell grant eligible. Its Imperial Valley campus serves a predominantly Latino population, currently 94%.

Two examples of intentionally SERVING: partnerships and faculty hiring

SDSU deliberately fosters collaborative relationships that support transfer processes that benefit Latino students. Admission staff work closely with transfer center directors and counselors, making sure they understand transfer academic pathways to ensure Latino students are supported as they navigate application and enrollment processes. Likewise, the Imperial Valley University Partnership has been a key part of SDSU’s successful transfer strategy. It promotes a higher level of collaboration and coordination within the K-16 pipeline and has resulted in the development of articulation agreements and transfer admission guarantees that streamline the curriculum and expand access for transfer students.

As part of its commitment to increase the number of Latino faculty and staff, SDSU has several strategies. The Building on Inclusive Excellence hiring program requires that candidates considered for hiring demonstrate commitment to serving URM populations, including Latinos. In addition, each academic and administrative unit is required to have a plan for hiring diverse personnel in order to receive approval for future hires. Units must adopt specific strategies to achieve representation that reflects the demographics of SDSU. Three councils were created to support the development and implementation of these plans: an Equity Council that examines diversity at the institutional level; an Inclusion Council that supports diversity within academic affairs; and diversity councils within each college to help ensure the plans are completed and effective.


Click here to view the SDSU institutional page which includes Excelencia in Education analysis.