How colleges, universities can ensure the success of their Latinx students

The high velocity of Latinx growth in the United States represents a great opportunity for higher education leaders looking to defy projected enrollment declines due to a drop in college-aged adults.

Davenport University (Mich.) and Mercy University (N.Y.) have recently unveiled new strategies for winning the confidence of Latinx applicants, leading the charge to ensure the country’s most potent student demographic is benefiting from higher education.

The high velocity of Latinx growth in the United States represents a great opportunity for higher education leaders looking to defy projected enrollment declines due to a drop in college-aged adults. Latinx make up nearly one in five of all Americans and accounted for more than half of the U.S. population growth in the past decade, according to 2022 data from the Pew Research Center. Latinx students make up more than a quarter of K12 students, according to 2021 data from Excelencia, a public policy non-profit focused on Latin student success.

However, data suggests colleges and universities are failing to capitalize on Latinx enrollment. Excelencia found that four-year degree attainment for Hispanic students was 13% percentage points lower than for White students. Additionally, Hispanic students are the most likely to consider stopping out of college, citing emotional stress, complications with their mental health and cost-related issues.

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Building Latinx-friendly programs at Davenport University

Davenport University has unveiled a set of 12 undergraduate and graduate degrees that it hopes will attract the budding number of Latin students around Western Michigan. Its draw: all of its online, career-oriented programs, ranging from technology to healthcare to business, will be offered in a bilingual English and Spanish format. Housed in Davenport’s Casa Latina, the program is a first-of-its-kind in the country, says Carlos Sanchez, the executive director.

“Rather than having Latinos adapt to the way we teach in school, we felt that we needed to flip the way we teach,” he says. “Let’s adapt to the way they speak.”

Casa Latina uses a dual-language methodology that flips the language in which its curriculum is taught on a weekly basis. This way, predominantly Spanish-speaking students can slowly scale their command over the English language as they learn to develop presentations and write essays while not being led astray from their roots.

“We’re still seeing that not many Latinos are going to college,” Sanchez says. “We found out that one main reason is that Latinos felt their English was not good enough, so they decided not to apply or that the environment was not for them.”

Not only will Hispanic students ingratiate themselves with our country’s predominantly English-speaking institutions, but they will also learn how to advance their Spanish beyond the conversational style they’re used to using in household settings. Sanchez believes that dual-language learning will help students “elevate” the language.

The new offering at Davenport also covers many bases Latinx students frequently cite struggling with when seeking a degree.

  • Freeing up the financial burden: Full-time undergraduate students are eligible for a nearly $10,000 scholarship. Furthermore, DU is offering to process applicants’ international credentials in-house at no cost, saving students roughly $500 to $700.
  • Addressing the first-gen gap: Seeing that around 44% of Hispanic students are first-generation, Casa Latina’s First-Generation Initiative will offer custom programming and strategic activities geared to provide them with a smooth path to graduation.
  • Tackling mental health: The DU Wellness Center offers free and confidential counseling services for all students.

Boosting employability

Mercy University doesn’t have a Latinx enrollment problem. A designated Hispanic-Serving Institution and Seal of Excelencia awardee, the private New York university’s undergraduate population comprises 40% Latinx students. The next step for Mercy is ensuring its students are enrolling in high-demand programs that produce high wages.

To do so, Mercy has partnered with Medical Sales College to fill a void currently in the medical sales profession; less than 14% of the country’s 115,000 sales representatives are Hispanic. Mercy’s medical device sales program will offer a blend of classroom instruction and experiential learning.

“We have many students who study in various healthcare-related areas, but the reason we’re partnering with MSC is there is a very specific skill set that is required to move into these roles that the medical device companies are looking to hire in,” says Brian Amkraut, vice president and general manager of new division of workforce credentialing and community impact at Mercy.

For Michael Moses, vice president of marketing at Medical Sales College, it’s more than just the money Latinx students are bound to earn. “You’re also working with the patients,” he says. “You’re standing in the operating room with the surgeons, and we hear from our industry partners that it’s critical that their sales force better matches the population they’re serving.”

A report by the Pew Research Center shared that more than a third of Hispanic adults (35%) strongly or somewhat prefer seeing a Spanish-speaking doctor or other healthcare provider for routine care. However, more than half (51%) say it makes no difference whether the doctor they see speaks Spanish or not.

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

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