Latinos Closing Achievement Gap in Higher Education

For decades, Latino students have lagged behind when it comes to higher education. But a new study by The Education Trust recently found that a number of universities have not only closed the performance gap but are now graduating Latinos at higher rates than whites. NPR reporter Michel Martin spoke to Jennifer Engle, co-author of the study, and Western Oregon University associate provost, David McDonald about this shift in higher education.

With President Obama's signing of the White House initiative on educational excellence for Hispanics, there has been a palpable push to focus on the educational needs of our booming population. Ms. Engle points to the "culture of success" fostered at some universities as a key factor determining education—it's retention and graduation rates, not just initial enrollment, that point to a school's true success.

McDonald, who's school Western Oregon University has graduated 49% Hispanic students versus 43% of whites between 2006 and 2008, says that there were three key initiatives put in place at the school that have helped with the education of their Latino students. The first was enhanced academic advisement, keeping in mind that manystudents are first generation immigrants or the first to attend university in their family. The second was ensuring that the university remained affordable for all students. The third initiative relates to Engle's point about a "culture of success."

"We told their parents that they came to Western to graduate," said McDonald. "Not to be successful upon entry, but to be successful all the way through their degree."