Austin Community College (ACC) centralizes equity in all of its completion work, with the understanding that while ACC's objective is to support all ACC students in achieving their educational goals, different groups of students require different levels/types of support to help them realize their academic goals.
As a result, ACC has programs and practices that enhance the college's capacity to serve all students and we're also seeing a direct benefit to Latino students.
Last month, ACC announced that the college earned the Seal of Excelencia from Excelencia in Education — a national organization focused on using data, evidence-based practices, and leadership strategies to accelerate Latino student success — for intentionally serving Hispanic students.
To apply for this certification, Student Affairs and Instructional Leadership partnered together to submit a rigorous 30-page application for Excelencia's consideration in categories including enrollment, financial aid, transfer, persistence, and professional development.
Below are 10 examples from ACC's Seal of Excelencia application that highlight ways that ACC is making an impact on Latino student success.
1. The college is evaluating the enrollment pipeline to identify the junctures during the process that are the most challenging for Latino students to navigate.
Only about 65% of Latino applicants are likely to submit all application forms and only 75% of these successful applicants make it through advising and registration. The Enrollment Management Office, through focus groups by race and ethnicity, also found that submitting college readiness test scores was as a barrier to new students. As a result, ACC signed agreements with five school districts to receive their uploaded test scores so that recent high school graduates do not need to submit their own.
2. ACC supports the college's large Spanish-speaking community and addresses language barriers.
The Student Affairs Help Desk answers calls about admissions, enrollment, registration, financial aid, tuition payments/reimbursements, veterans benefits, and advising. The Help Desk has three bilingual staff to answer calls, chats, and emails in Spanish when needed. In 2018, the Help Desk received more than 1,000 calls in Spanish. Other strategies include having Spanish-speaking financial aid staff available to help students and their families, and maintaining Spanish-translated financial aid materials.
3. Recruitment teams intentionally support application efforts and college-going events to improve college access in low college-transition high schools.
At Reagan, 78% of the student population is Latino, and more than 35% participate in bilingual programming. At LBJ, 59% of the student population is Hispanic, and more than 23% participate in bilingual programming. Both of these high schools are home to one of ACC's Early College High Schools and receive support from ACC's Upward Bound Grant. Several schools are rural, such as Lockhart (77% Hispanic), Blanco (33% Hispanic), and Smithville (28% Hispanic).
4. Financial Aid assists Latino students through the financial aid process by providing support to ACC organizations, departments, programs, and centers who serve Hispanics.
Completing additional financial aid forms and acquiring tax information from the IRS can be a daunting task and discouraging experience without a strong support system. Financial Aid hosts workshops and participates in events for programs and centers — such as Ascender: Catch the Next and El Centro — to ensure financial aid completion by building students' network of allies, providing them with one-on-one assistance, and sharing information about financial aid resources available at ACC.
5. Financial Aid also targets outreach efforts to Latino communities by hosting FAFSA workshops for majority Hispanic high schools and ACC ESOL courses.
In 2018-2019, Financial Aid hosted and participated in multiple financial aid events at high schools throughout the greater Austin area, including Del Valle (81% Hispanic), Akins (77% Hispanic), Manor (67% Hispanic), Austin CAN Academy (82% Hispanic), and Eastside Memorial Early College (83% Hispanic). Each event had from 10 to 100 students in attendance.
6. The college has specific programs addressing Latino student transfer.
The Ascender: Catch the Next program focuses on creating a culture of evidence and engagement leading to college completion. Students are recruited into one of six cohorts throughout the district and are provided one-on-one support and mentoring to first-generation, Latino students. The My Brother's Keeper program targets four area high schools with high Hispanic and African American populations and low college attendance, providing coaching and college access activities.
7. Guided Pathways advising provides Latino students with personalized, proactive advising to help them select an academic path, persist, and graduate.
Advisors case manage about 10,000 students with fewer than 12 credit hours, of which about 3,500 are Latino. Students receive at least five touch points (in-person, email, text, call) throughout the semester. A 65-page comprehensive Academic Coaching Manual informs this work. Interventions on these students are consistently evaluated and disaggregated by race/ethnicity.
8. The college partners with community-based organizations to support Latino student success, from high school students directly to ACC and after graduation.
To ensure their success, students must have a strong support system — both at ACC and within the community. Partners include these Austin College Access Network members that support high school-to-college enrollment for students less likely to choose college, including Latino students: KIPP: Austin, Con Mi Madre, Communities in Schools, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Austin Partners in Education, Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, College Forward, Breakthrough Central Texas, Capital IDEA, and Peloton U.
9. EDUC 1300 gives Latino students an overview of college services, to support their academic progress, study skills, time management, and career exploration.
Beginning in fall 2015, all students new to ACC with fewer than 12 semester hours of successful college credit have been required to take this three-credit-hour transferable core course in their first semester at ACC. EDUC 1300 covers research and theory in the psychology of learning, cognition, and motivation; factors that impact learning; and application of learning strategies.
10. The college offers professional development for faculty and staff focused on serving and accelerating Latino student success
For example, ACC offers training on strategies to develop and teach classes that have a multicultural emphasis in support of Latino students for Ascender: Catch the Next faculty. The college is also the recipient of a national grant award, Adult Learner 360, focusing on adult Latino students. As a result, ACC has established a Hispanic Serving Institution Committee to embed high-impact practices that address the needs of adult and Latino learners in faculty and staff training and development programs.
The Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs welcomes the opportunity to discuss any questions or comments you may have regarding ACC'S 2019 Seal of Excelencia application. Contact Guillermo (Willie) Martinez, III, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 512-223-7053.