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Top programs advancing Latino achievement in higher education

Higher education leaders and elected officials from across the country came together today in Washington, D.C., to announce Excelencia in Education’s  2013 What Works for Latino Students in Higher Education — a detailed catalogue of America’s top 22 programs that increase achievement for Latino students at the associates, baccalaureate and graduate levels.

“As America’s fastest growing minority, Latinos are a true asset for our country, and their educational success will be critical for the future economic success of all Americans,” said Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (Ariz.), chairman of the Education and Labor Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, in a statement. “By identifying and sharing these examples of how we can improve college success for Latinos, Excelencia in Education is helping ensure the future not only for the Latino community, but for the whole country.”

This year, the eighth annual edition selected three honorees.

Cañada College in Redwood City, California created a program at the associate level called Math Jam in 2009, which successfully tackled the low levels of math preparation among underrepresented students. By connecting students with faculty, tutors and the Cañada College STEM Center, Math Jam students showed a 94 percent retention rate and 74 percent graduation rate, compared to a 75 percent retention rate and 47 percent graduation rate for Latino non-participants.

The University of Texas at Brownsville set out to increase student retentions and timely graduation at the bachelor level through the Students Employment Initiative (SEI). Initiated in 2005, SEI made a significant difference in accelerating college completion by allowing students to work by attending college — and placing them in positions where they can grow and research a field of interest. Those who graduated had an average GPA of 3.34 and an average four-year (or less) graduation rate of 53 percent compared to the 17.51 percent institutional average; and an average six-year (or less) graduation rate of 95 percent, versus the 42.7 percent institutional average.

 A joint program, at the graduate level, between the University of Texas Pan American and the University of Texas at Austin Cooperative Doctoral Program in Pharmacy, encouraged students from the Rio Grande Valley and Laredo regions of South Texas to pursue pharmacy as a career. The program helped alleviate the shortage of pharmacists in those regions, particularly for the underserved. Almost 81 percent of alumni have stayed to work in the field, and for the past two years, 100 percent of students achieved success at their first attempt for board licensure exams.

Additionally, 14 programs were recognized as national finalists, with five given honorable mention.

According to Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education, this year’s finalists are at the forefront of improving higher educational achievement for Latino students.

“No longer should policymakers and institutional leaders ask how to improve college success for Latinos — we have the largest accumulation of proven examples and tested strategies that show them how,” said Brown. “Today’s question is do leaders have the will to put these practices into action?”

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