Last year, this earlier post discussed the launch of Diplomás, a project to raise college completion rates by Latinos, funded in part by a grant from the Lumina Foundation. One year later, the participants met at Café College to discuss goals and evaluate progress. “Coalition sets goals to boost Latino graduation rate”, Maria Luisa Cesar, San Antonio Express-News, September 23, 2013; “San Antonio to unveil new strategies to increase Latino college graduation rate”, James Aldridge, San Antonio Business Journal, September 23, 2013; “Diplomas Project: Supporting San Antonio’s Latino students”, John Benson, Voxxi, May 22, 2013. Melanie Mendez-Gonzales of ¿Qué Means What? invited me to help cover the event.
The Diplomás project has many strengths, but also faces some challenges.
On the plus side, Diplomás is bringing together a large group of local partners—see the list below. Even in the digital age, there is no substitute for getting people together to talk face-to-face. (For instance, area colleges are working together to make it easier for students to tranfer credits.) Diplomás is also building connections to national leaders: one of the featured speakers at the meeting was Greg Darnieder, a senior adviser to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Also, Diplomás is committed to collecting and using data. The project has a specific goal: a 9 percent increase in Latino college graduates in San Antonio by 2015. This complements an SA2020 goal that 50 percent of San Antonio adults will complete a two-year or four-year degree by 2020.
The project’s leaders are using data to evaluate progress. With respect to helping students apply for financial aid, Eyra Peréz, Executive Director of the San Antonio Education Partnership, reported that Student Aid Saturdays (to be renamed “Student Aid San Antonio” as it expands to other days of the week) resulted in a 5.5 percent increase in FAFSA filings.
However, even if more students apply for financial aid, college tuition is still expensive. There are more challenges to increasing college completion: for example, if students are showing up for college not ready to do college coursework. Remedial classes are not necessarily effective—more needs to be done at the K-12 level. (Not just at the pre-K level.) Some of the greatest strides towards getting Latino students to and through college are being made by high-performing charter schools, but they are not among the Diplomás project’s broad group of partners (see below).
María Fernández, Diplomás Project Director, talked about “COMPROMÍSO“: getting participants to make a commitment to help increase Latino college completion. My compromíso is increasing parent engagement by spreading the word about high quality education options. What is YOUR compromíso? Please leave a comment to share.
As promised, here is a list of current Diplomás partners:
- Advise TX
- Alamo Colleges
- Educate Texas
- Education Service Center Region 20
- Generation TX San Antonio
- Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce
- Harlandale ISD
- Hispanic Scholarship Fund—Scholar Chapter
- Northside ISD
- P16Plus Council of Greater Bexar County
- San Antonio Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
- San Antonio ISD
- Southwest ISD
- Texas Association of Chicanos in Higher Education
- University of Texas at San Antonio
- San Antonio Education Partnership