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Latino High School Grads Entering College At Record Rate: Let's Assure Their Success

Latinos are on the cusp of something phenomenal: breaking the stereotype that college is not for them.

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Today, in four states—California, Florida, New Mexico and Texas—Latinos already make up at least 20 percent of college students As more Latinos attend and graduate from high school, these states are likely to see increased Latino enrollment at public colleges and universities. It is imperative that states plan for this shift in student population in order to ensure that Latino students succeed and complete a degree.

It is clear that if the United States is on target to pursue the goal of having the highest percentage of college graduates in the world by 2020, improving college completion must become the focus of national and state postsecondary policy. The economic vitality of these and other gradually-growing Latino states will largely be determined by increasing the number of citizens who earn a college degree in order to keep pace with the increased number of jobs requiring postsecondary education.

So, besides access, what steps can private and public institutions of higher learning take to ensure Latinos remain in school and earn a degree? First, continue to support and finance important federal and state-level initiatives such as TRIO programsand Puente at the high school level.

Second, provide options for students to receive career and workforce training as part of their high school and college experience. Third, encourage these institutions to measure and report the comparative effectiveness of their minority retention programs such as  Summer Bridge.

And, while we are at it, why not help simplify the transfer process between colleges and universities? This is important given that a little under 50 percent of Latino students enroll in community colleges. Also, with the proliferation of online courses at major and elite universities, we need to ensure that Latino students have evening, weekend and online options for taking courses, transferring credit and ultimately, obtaining a degree. Lastly, high school standards must be improved as a way to better link K-12 exit skills with college entrance requirements.

While targeting Latino students is important, increasing retention and college completion for all students is essential. It is in our collective best interest to ensure that the future of America be the best educated and trained so that we as a country can remain highly competitive in the global workforce.

In the words of Marcelo Suarez-Orozco, dean of UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, ensuring the educational vitality of Latino youth “is not a narrow demographic question pertinent to only one group in the American mosaic. This is fundamental to all of us."

I second this.

Jaime Dominguez, PhD, is a college adviser and lecturer in the Department of Political Science and the Latino/a Studies Program at Northwestern University. His research interests include race and ethnicity; Latino and urban politics. He is also a Northwestern Public Voices fellow through The OpEd Project.

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