New Report Affirms UAlbany’s Success in Serving Latino Students

A confetti cannon shoots a blast of purple and gold confetti over a sea of black mortar board hats and hands raised in celebration at UAlbany's spring 2023 Undergraduate Commencement.
Arms raised in triumph at UAlbany's 2023 Undergraduate Commencement. (Photo by Brian Busher)

ALBANY, N.Y. (Aug. 1, 2023) — The University at Albany has made significant progress toward eliminating graduation gaps that persist nationally between Latina and Latino students and their white classmates, according to a new analysis.

Excelencia in Education, the nation’s leading authority in efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education, recently released “Latino College Completion: United States 2023,” the most comprehensive information available on Latino enrollment and graduation rates as well as programs proven to work for Latina and Latino students.

While the report found that degree completion gaps between Latinos and white non-Hispanics have grown on average, at UAlbany they have essentially achieved parity. Nationally, Latino students graduated at a rate (52 percent) that was on average 13 percentage points lower than their white classmates, according to the report. In New York, the gap was 16 points.

But at UAlbany, among the cohort of first-year students who joined the University in 2016, Latina and Latino students graduated at the same rate (64 percent) as their white classmates. The same was true for the 2013 cohort.

Excelencia’s analysis was based on six-year graduation rates reported to the federal government by four-year institutions, which is generally the standard by which institutions are compared.

'Great Things Can Happen'

“While it is quite clear that we have much more work ahead of us, UAlbany’s success at closing graduation gaps for Latina and Latino students shows that great things can happen when we invest our time, attention and resources in ensuring the success of all students,” said UAlbany President Havidán Rodríguez. “As one of the most diverse public research institutions in the country, we are committed to this difficult and complex work because 100 percent of students who enroll at UAlbany expect to graduate, and we owe it to them to do everything we can to support them in achieving that life-changing degree.” 

Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia, said, “Excelencia is proud to bring this analysis to the public with support from 25 college, university and system leaders committed to serve Latino students while serving all. Especially in this moment of change in higher education and in our society, we remain focused on Latino college completion and recognize its importance to ensuring America’s future.”

Deborah Santiago, Excelencia’s co-founder and CEO, who leads Excelencia’s research and policy agenda said, “Since our inception 19 years ago Excelencia has tracked and shared analysis about Latino students in higher education to inform, catalyze and support institutional change as the Latino student population continues to grow. Trendsetting college and university leaders recognize the opportunity to increase Latino participation at their institutions and focus on these students completing degree programs, entering the workforce and civic leadership roles.”

A Multi-Layered Approach to Student Success

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Carol Kim said that UAlbany's academic curricula are “part and parcel” of this student success system. 

“We are constantly considering and adapting the programs and courses we offer to students with their academic success and future job prospects in mind," Kim said. "This holds true for all of our students, including our students of color and those from underrepresented communities."

UAlbany’s gains in closing graduation gaps are thanks in part to its efforts in recent years to build “a robust, holistic and personalized student success system that supports students throughout their academic journey,” said JoAnne Malatesta, vice provost and dean of undergraduate education, who leads UAlbany’s Office of Academic Innovation & Student Success.

“This system was intentionally designed with multi-layered supports that adapt to students’ needs as they move from admission to graduation,” said Malatesta, who is also a policy fellow for Excelencia working with the organization to identify ways to translate UAlbany’s successes to a national level.

In fall 2022, UAlbany became the first R1 institution in the Northeast and the first SUNY campus to earn the rigorous Seal of Excelencia for its data-driven commitment to Latina and Latino student success. The Education Trust had previously praised the University as a national leader in closing graduation gaps among Black and Latina/o students.

Among the highlights from UAlbany’s Seal application were:

  • A 30+ percent increase from 2015-17 in Latina and Latino enrollment in UAlbany’s high-impact Living-Learning Communities accompanied by higher GPAs, retention and graduation rates
  • Nearly doubling Latina and Latino representation in UAlbany’s Honors College from 2014-17, with Latino Honors students demonstrating higher retention and graduation rates
  • Developing freshman seminar/experience courses that have disproportionately enrolled Latina and Latino students, accompanied by higher retention and graduation rates
  • Implementation of an advanced academic monitoring and early warning system empowering Student Success Teams to intervene at signs of academic distress in all students

In May, President Rodríguez joined the President’s Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity, which is charged with advising President Biden through Education Secretary Miguel Cardona on a range of issues related to removing barriers to educational equity and economic opportunity for Hispanics and Latinos. He also is a member Excelencia’s national Presidents for Latino Student Success network, which is composed of institutional leaders who have committed to making their institutions learning environments where Latina and Latino students thrive.

Excelencia professionals and the colleges and universities in the network work in common cause to put evidence-based practices, research and strategic analysis of student data to use supporting and advancing the talents, skills and contributions of Latino students and the institutions that serve them.

In fall 2022, UAlbany welcomed a freshman class that was 21.4 percent Hispanic or Latino/a, the largest share in the University’s history and up from 13.6 percent in 2012.