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Excelencia in Education leads first-ever convening with targeted focus on Latino college success

Oct 22, 2012 | posted by Jessica Bassett, Communications Associate

~ Unprecedented event brings together higher education, community, and philanthropic leaders to improve degree completion ~

SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, TEXAS – Excelencia in Education and Educate Texas brought together national and Texas higher education leaders here today for the first-ever convening of its kind focused specifically on college success among Latinos in the Rio Grande Valley.  Supported by the Ford Foundation, the event connected higher education, community, and philanthropic leaders to work collectively to find ways to help Rio Grande Valley Latinos succeed in college, and it included the release of new data on Latino college completion in the Rio Grande Valley.

U.S. Congressman Rubén Hinojosa (D-Mercedes), whose district includes the Rio Grande Valley, offered his support for the event, saying, "While Latino students are entering our nation's colleges and universities in record numbers, we must ensure that they receive the financial aid, academic support, and mentoring they need to make it to the finish line on graduation day.  To be sure, America cannot achieve President Obama's goal of world leadership in college degrees and remain globally competitive without a laser-like focus on Latino students. Increasing the college completion rate in the Rio Grande Valley and across Texas is key to achieving the President's goal."  Hinojosa is ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training.

For the U.S. to regain the top ranking in the world for college degree attainment, Latinos will need to earn 5.5 million degrees by 2020.  However, while 90 percent of the population of the Rio Grande Valley is Latino, the degree attainment rate is still less than half that of Whites.

“As home to such a significant population of Latino students and also to a cadre of major institutions of higher education, the Rio Grande Valley is a living laboratory, providing a unique opportunity to focus on this issue,” said Sarita Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.  “Today we have, for the first time, a convergence of college presidents, national and Texas higher education experts and advocates, major philanthropists, and community leaders, all with the common goal of strengthening the future of Texas and America by strengthening the future for Latino students.”

“Educate Texas is proud to partner with Excelencia in Education to support Rio Grande Valley leaders as they build a regional collective impact strategy to ensure all learners achieve a postsecondary degree or credential that leads to a meaningful career,” said Chris Coxon, chief program officer for Educate Texas.

Today’s program included a roundtable with the presidents of the University of Texas-Pan American, the University of Texas at Brownsville, South Texas College, and Texas Southmost College, who shared their institutions’ most effective practices at improving Latino college success. 

“Over the past seven years, we have been systematically evaluating and recognizing the best programs in the country at improving college success among Latinos,” said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy and research at Excelencia in Education.  “Many of the institutions represented today have been recognized in our database of programs that are proven to work, so this has been an important opportunity for all participants to learn from each other.” 

In addition to the discussion with and among Texas university presidents, another panel focused on making connections and creating opportunities among the diverse organizations represented to support community advocacy efforts and key policy priorities to make progress on Latino college completion.  A third panel delved into the role of funders and their investments in targeting policy and place-based efforts to meet Latino college completion goals, and included major national entities like TG and the Ford Foundation.

Known nationally as a trusted source of research and data of Latinos in higher education, Excelencia in Education today released its latest data on Latino college completion in the Rio Grande Valley.  Key findings note the degree attainment rate is 37 percent for Latinos but only 16 percent for Whites.  The data released today offers a framework for tracking Latino degree attainment in the Rio Grande Valley, and it highlights programs at the University of Texas-Pan American, South Texas College, and the University of Texas at Brownsville that have proven to make a positive difference.

Today’s trailblazing convening is part of a collaborative effort among 65 national partners led by Excelencia in Education and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Kresge Foundation entitled Ensuring America’s Future by Increasing Latino College Completion.  Ensuring America’s Future partners attending today included: the University of Texas at Brownsville, the American Association of Colleges and Universities, the National Association of Latino Elected Officials Educational Fund, Jobs for the Future, the University of Texas System, TG, Helios, ACT, the American Association of Community Colleges, Single Stop USA, and the Ford Foundation.

Excelencia in Education is a national, non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.

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