By Zachary Schermele, NBC News
A number of colleges and universities whose student populations are at least a quarter Hispanic have been the most successful in providing students with economic mobility, according to a report from the Third Way, a Washington-based think tank.
The report was the subject of discussion during a panel hosted Tuesday by the Latina-led nonprofit Excelencia in Education, which measures and analyzes best practices to boost Latino college completion.
Campus leaders from three schools in the report discussed the important function that Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs) can serve in jump-starting the professional and financial success of Latino students. Hispanic-serving institutions are defined by the Department of Education as schools with an enrollment of at least 25 percent full-time undergraduate students.
Nicole Siegel, deputy director of education at Third Way, whose goal is to develop a “high-quality education agenda,” said during the event that despite recent changes to the methodologies of some college rankings, characteristics such as “selectivity” and “historical prestige” have stayed more influential than what she sees as a better metric: student outcomes.
“If the primary purpose of postsecondary education is supposed to be to catalyze an increase in economic mobility for students, we need to elevate the schools that are actually succeeding in this goal,” Siegel said.
The schools with the best economic mobility outcomes in the Third Way report are mainly concentrated in California, Texas and New York — all states with relatively significant state funding allocations for public higher education. According to Excelencia in Education, these schools offer beneficial outcomes for their students by offering them a speedier return on their investment than other institutions and by enrolling less affluent students.
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley, which ranks fourth in the report, enrolls more than 62 percent of students who are eligible for Pell grants, a financial need-based scholarship awarded to undergraduates by the federal government. The university also recently expanded its “tuition advantage grant” for the upcoming fall to cover the costs of tuition and mandatory fees for students with family incomes of up to $125,000.
Magdalena Hinojosa, senior vice president for strategic enrollment and student affairs at Texas Rio Grande, said the Third Way report provides a way of “looking at our institutions in a different way” and “bringing to light who we are as institutions.”
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