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Financial Aid Policies Should Do More for Latinos, Report Says

With Latino students comprising 14 percent of the population on college campuses today and 25 percent of those rising through the K-12 pipeline, a Latino advocacy group says more needs to be done to make sure students know how to access financial aid and support services to help them succeed.

On Thursday, Excelencia in Education released a report, Using a Latino Lens to Reimagine Aid Design and Delivery, commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation at a Capitol Hill event in Washington.

(The Gates Foundation provides funding to support Education Week coverage of K-12 industry and innovation.)

Changes in public policy are needed to raise awareness about the aid process and better serve Latinos, since their college completion lags behind other groups, the report suggests. Nearly 21 percent of Latino adults have an associate degree or higher, compared to 41 percent of all American adults.

Federal financial aid policy should recognize the unique needs of Latinos, who are often nontraditional students — more likely to attend community college, enroll part-time, work while in school, and live off campus, according to the report. Also, researchers note many may not be college-ready and delay initial postsecondary enrollment. This means that additional outreach may be needed to serve students in these situations, Excelenia says.

The report calls on the federal government to be transparent with information about college costs and prioritize low-income students with financial aid, providing incentives for college completion. Effective policy should go beyond funding and align with student supports services to help first-generation students be successful.

The report underscores the diversity of the Latino student population and notes that the issues go beyond that of immigration, language acquisition, and high school completion. About 90 percent of Hispanics enrolled in k-12 schools are native born and 80 percent of Latino school-age children speak English with no difficulty. Other strategies and structures are needed, Excelenia maintains, to connect more Latino students with financial and other support to encourage degree completion.

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