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A new report released by the University of Southern California Race and Equity Center explores the role of Hispanic-serving community colleges in California and offers suggestions for how they could better serve Latino students.

The report notes that 92 percent of California’s 116 community colleges are considered Hispanic-serving institutions, colleges where at least a quarter of undergraduates are Latino, and “the remaining campuses are likely to reach the HSI eligibility enrollment threshold in the near future, making the system a HSI system.” It also highlights that 82 of the community colleges eligible for HSI status have received Department of Education grants over the last 15 years, but persistence and degree completion rates for Latino community college students have stayed “fairly stagnant.”

The report examines whether these institutions are producing equitable academic outcomes for Latino students. For example, it suggests that Latino students have lower completion rates for credit-bearing math and English courses within a year at these institutions because they’re disproportionately placed in remedial coursework and often attend colleges with more remedial math courses. About 62 percent of Latino students at Hispanic-serving community colleges completed transfer-level English, and 46 percent completed transfer-level math in the 2019–20 academic year, compared to 67 percent and 52 percent of all students, respectively. Institutions varied on equitable completion rates for these kinds of courses and transfer to four-year institutions. Most of these community colleges, however, had Latino students earning degrees and certificates at rates “almost at equity or above” and had most of their Latino students getting jobs and earning living wages after graduation.

The report recommends that the system chancellor’s office offers more guidance to community colleges on how to pursue HSI grants. It also calls on colleges to be transparent about their grant application efforts, recruit and provide professional development opportunities to more Latino staff members and administrators, and track not only traditional student success outcomes but other metrics, such as “perceptions of campus climate, and non-academic outcomes, such as civic engagement, racial identity development, and critical consciousness,” among other recommendations.