Latino Students Persist in College

By: Shannon Hayes, Policy Analyst, Public Affairs

The true picture of Latino college completion must be measured on a longer scale than the traditional six years, Excelencia in Education pointed out after examining the experiences of Latino students tabulated in a recent National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report.

According to the report, 46 percent of Latino students had earned either a two- or four-year degree six years after entering college, but an additional 19 percent were still enrolled and working toward their degree at that time. A large majority of this latter group (almost 90 percent) had mixed enrollment (i.e., were taking both full-time and part-time semesters) throughout their collegiate years. Latino students who graduated within six years were also more likely to have mixed enrollment than their peers from other racial/ethnic groups.

Latino students were also more likely to complete a two-year degree before transferring to a four-year institution, and 80 percent of Latino students who began at a four-year college and graduated did so at the same institution.

These data points combine to show a certain level of steadiness among two-thirds of the Latino college-going population, but that still leaves 35 percent of the population who were not enrolled and had not graduated after six years. Such a high percentage is not acceptable.

ACT’s 2018 Higher Education Policy Platform makes a number of recommendations to improve postsecondary outcomes for all students, including Latino students. One key recommendation is streamlining the financial aid process to ease navigation: as ACT research has shown, receiving financial aid put first-generation Latino students at nearly the same second-year retention level as their non-first-generation Latino peers.

A second recommendation is for institutions to leverage technology in college advising to better support underserved students. Technology can be used to easily “nudge” students onto a pathway to success and to better identify those students who would most benefit from the personal attention of an advisor; without such interventions, many Latino students, especially those with mixed enrollment, might otherwise fall through the cracks.

Excelencia’s analysis makes clear that examining only those students on “traditional” paths through college leaves a large number of Latino students in the shadows; it is vital to measure the efforts of this group of students even if they take longer to graduate, and to encourage more students to stick it out. For many Latino students, the old adage may prove true: slow and steady wins the race—or, in this case, the diploma.