Building positive momentum for Latino students

By AACC 21st Century Center Staff

Seal of Excelencia colleges create environments where Latino students thrive

Excelencia in Education awards the Seal of Excelencia certification each year to higher education institutions with an unwavering commitment to intentionally serve Latino students.

This year, 10 institutions earned the Seal, joining 14 other institutions that have earned the certification since 2018.

“These Seal certified institutions have been able to articulate and demonstrate they are modeling the behavior we need to see to accelerate Latino student success,” said Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education. “They are having measurable impact in changing the face of higher education.”

Institutions can earn the Seal by demonstrating alignment across the three core areas of data, practice and leadership. They must show evidence of effectiveness and intentionality in institutional practices serving Latino students and positive momentum for Latino student progress. Seal-certified institutions also must be dedicated to creating an environment where Latino students thrive and engaging in leadership strategies that articulate institutional focus on advancing Latino student success.

Among the 10 Seal-certified institutions for 2021 are Miami Dade College (MDC) and Wilbur Wright College.

Intentional programming in Florida

Nearly three-quarters of students at the Florida College are Hispanic, and more than half of the 90,000 students are first-generation students.

Excelencia in Education cites two ways MDC intentionally serves Latino students.

The first is through the rigorous Honors College Dual-Language Program, in which students take honors level courses 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, according to an Excelencia release. In Miami-Dade County, most residents are Hispanic and employers are bilingual.

The program has maintained a 100% fall-to-spring retention rate. The fall-to-fall retention rate is 98%. That’s higher than any of the other Honors College cohorts at MDC. 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.

The second way MDC serves Latino students is through Shark Path, which guides students at every stage of their journey from admissions to completion. It weaves together strategies, programs, activities and interventions. Students benefit from a 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.

With the help of Shark Path, the average fall-to-spring and fall-to-fall retention rates increased. 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, rising from 31% to 36%.

“Receiving the Seal of Excelencia affirms Miami Dade College is truly advancing Hispanic student success and completion by focusing on data, evidenced-based best practices and leadership, which expands career pathways for Latinos in the new global economy,” MDC President Madeline Pumariega said in a release.

Encouraging success in Illinois

At Wilbur Wright College, a Hispanic-Serving Institution that’s part of the City Colleges of Chicago, 58% of the 6,000 students enrolled in spring 2021 were Hispanic, 7% Black and 8% Asian. The college is increasing success for its students through scholarships for progress and college preparation programs.

The Chicago Star Scholarship Program supports the progress of Latino students’ enrollment, retention, completion and transfer. The scholarship provides tuition and books. Beyond financial support is dedicated support from Wright College staff and transfer partners to help Star scholars complete and transfer. Latinx Star scholars also are part of a community, engaging with each other on and off campus at events.

The average GPA is 2.9 for a Star scholar at Wright College, higher than both the City Colleges of Chicago (CCC) general student population and other CCC Star scholars. The retention rate of the Star scholars at Wright College has been above 85% and for Latinx Stars the retention has been 84%. For the Latinx Stars, the transfer rate is at 65%.

Wright College also has been expanding Early College opportunities to more high schools with large populations of Latino students. More than 1,000 high school students annually participate. Wright recruiters and admissions specialists are bilingual and trained in cultural competencies. They work alongside the faculty, administrators and high school teachers to ensure Latino students have access to information and access to authentic college education.

This involves providing information and support to the families of students, as well. Wright started offering bilingual programming – Noche de Familia – to highlight college information in Spanish to parents/guardians. 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.

“Our many first-year student resources, along with our summer bridge programs have aided the transition to college for many of our Latinx students,” CCC Chancellor Juan Salgado said in a release. “But the secret ingredient in supporting all our students, at every level, has always been our amazing faculty and staff. Every day they go above and beyond for our students.”

Read about all the 2021 Seal-certified institutions.

AACC 21st Century Center Staff

is a contributor to the 21st-Century Center.