Prospective Latine/x college students in the U.S. are the most likely to choose community college as their first step when pursuing a higher education. They’re also more likely to be first-generation, come from families in the bottom half of earners, and delay or cancel their college plans due to financial struggles or caregiving responsibilities.
And even though Hispanic students were the only college student population who saw consistent growth over the past 10 years, there was still a 24.5% gap in degree attainment between Hispanic and White adults during that time. Now, schools must work harder to prioritize closing equity gaps and bringing these students back to campus.
In this post, I’ll share five ways your community college can strengthen recruitment and enrollment efforts among Latine/x students sourced from EAB research and best practices from our 850+ Navigate partners.
Tip #1: Build belonging
When you foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive campus, students are more likely to feel a sense of connection and community—and, as a result, are more likely to persist. Colleges can make progress toward helping students feel they belong in the following ways:
Hire diverse staff and faculty
This doesn't just mean hiring multilingual advisors or admissions recruiters. Prospective students need to see themselves represented among campus leadership and faculty starting from their first touchpoint with your campus, which could be a tour, an info session, their first day of class, or simply your website. And diverse hiring practices can't end with an inclusive job ad or candidate diversity statement. Hiring committees must be diverse too. If your school or department lacks certain forms of diversity, invite peers from your community partner groups or other areas on campus to be a part of your hiring committees.
It's vital to engage the entire college in creating an environment that celebrates and supports these students. The burden to be inclusive shouldn’t rest solely with your Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion or your multilingual staff. Today’s students—and especially students of color—are hyper-aware of actions that feel performative, which creates a feeling of disconnection or otherness rather than belonging.
Promote your inclusive social and academic cohort programs
Cohort-style groups for students of color have proven successful at mitigating the effect of the “fish out of water” experience. Students gain a sense of community and belonging, which is positively correlated with academic persistence. Make sure your recruiters and admissions staff are armed with accurate print or digital materials about your campus’ available groups, and that there is a good contact available if a prospect wants more information. You can also have a member of these programs talk to students during tours, open houses, and student organization fairs.
Spotlight: Holyoke Community College
Located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, HCC met the challenges they were experiencing in Latine/x student recruitment and enrollment head on by creating El Centro, a learning community for this student group. Championed by HCC’s Hispanic Leadership Committee, Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs, and HCC President Christina Royal, El Centro provides a dedicated space for Latine/x students to thrive academically and socially. “Our mission is to walk students through unfamiliar processes, support their academic and human needs, and create opportunities for placemaking within the institution,” says El Centro Director Julissa Colón. They accomplish this by providing holistic support through extensive academic and wraparound services from the time the student applies to the time they walk the stage. The program opened in Fall 2022 and is already serving over 70 students.
Their outreach efforts have played a big part in their early success. They’ve leveraged their student success technology, Navigate, to recruit new, current, and former students to the program which has supported both their recruitment and retention efforts.
Engage the whole family
From multi-lingual parent orientations, tours, financial literacy courses and family-oriented pathways programs, this is an important way to not only support your students but their key influencers as well. More than in previous years, parents and family members have become the most critical voice in deciding whether to attend (or leave) college.
And consider: when you create programming that engages and supports families, you’re building a space for potential conversations with parents and younger siblings about starting or returning to their own education journey. Be sure to highlight foundational programs—especially if they’re offered in dual languages—and how earning a degree helps everyone expand their potential.
Tip #2: Offer dual-language degree paths
Miami Dade College is a Navigate partner and the first school in the nation that offered this unique option beginning in 2006. The program is offered through their Honors College and has doubled in size since 2020 alone. Students can take a variety of core courses in an environment that supports them as native Spanish speakers rather than the typical retrofit of English coursework into Spanish.
Dual-language degrees aren’t just a benefit to first-gen, native Spanish speakers—the demand for bilingual job applicants is growing. English-speaking students can take these courses as well, further expanding the reach and impact of this type of course structure. Yet few schools are revolutionizing the bilingual student experience on campus by offering core degrees in English and Spanish.
If you’re offering degree pathways like this, make sure they are highlighted in your recruitment materials, promoted on tours, and featured prominently on your website.
Tip #3: Reach students early through dual enrollment programs
There’s a lot of research available on the importance of dual enrollment programs—as you may know if you’ve implemented your own. The important takeaway for recruiting and enrolling Latine/x students with dual enrollment programs is that you can reach them much earlier in their journey and help them advance more quickly through your program before they graduate high school. This kind of support is critical in creating a sense of purpose on campus. They belong there—and they’re more likely to stay after finishing their secondary studies.
Here, Miami Dade leads by example once again. In 2020, they received $14M in Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions (DHSI) grant funding to create five dual enrollment programs that provide Latine/x students with early pathways to a variety of future-proof study options such as STEM, health sciences, and experiential learning.
Spotlight: Dallas College
Another unique take on the dual enrollment trend is the partnership between Dallas College and Dallas ISD. Dallas College is one of a small number of schools offering an innovative program called P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School. Based on a “learn-and-earn” model, P-TECH enables interested high school students to apply for the program and earn meaningful internships with tech partners. They can earn their associate’s degree and a pathway to a career by the time they graduate high school. Uniquely, P-TECH participation isn’t based on academic requirements. It has proven successful in helping underperforming students achieve academic milestones and go on to complete post-secondary degrees.
Tip #4: Be intentional in your recruitment marketing
If you implement every recommendation outlined above but your prospective students can’t find information about it (or if the information provided is unclear and outdated), you’re wasting your time. It’s essential to create marketing materials that highlight your unique offerings, career and transfer pathways, and the ways you foster belonging on your campus.
- Where possible, make marketing materials “evergreen” enough to last a year or two. Don’t put a lot of specific dates or stats in print materials unless the info stays the same year over year.
- Ensure your materials visually represent your student body, faculty, and staff. Latine/x students need to see themselves in your materials.
- Check your website—is the information confusing and full of jargon? Have you clearly outlined the benefits or “WIIFM” (What’s in it for me?) of attending your community college? Is your sitemap easy to follow?
- Check your partner websites—ensure information about your transfer pathways, dual enrollment, and mentorship programs is available is clear, up to date, and easily connects students between your site and your partner’s.
- Create bilingual materials and write culturally relevant copy. As stated before, if your office isn’t diverse enough to support this endeavor, include people from other areas on campus in your content creation and review process. Do not guess.
- Ensure you have a parents’ guide to admission available in English and Spanish so the whole family is included and supported in the college experience.
- Make sure your prospect outreach and follow-up to inquiries are speedy and personalized. A lot of students never enroll due to poor prospect management, especially first-generation students who may lack guidance on navigating the process.
Tip #5: Use technology to connect with students on their terms
Finally, meet your students where they are. It’s a digital world and the pandemic shot us into it like a rocket. At some point, your students—no matter their background—are going to digitally engage with your institution. It's important they're met with a thoughtful experience when that happens. Student success technologies enable institutions to leverage often limited resources and engage more meaningfully and equitably with students. For example, here are a few ways Holyoke CC uses Navigate to connect with Latine/x students:
- Deploy outreach campaigns and nudging to connect with new Latine/x students and re-engage recent stop-outs, offering multiple opportunities for support via text, email, or in person before the start of the semester.
- Utilize early alerts to collect important student notes from faculty and staff advisors, then quickly reach out to students who show signs of struggling to help them get back on track. They also send students “kudos” through campaigns to acknowledge good work and reinforce student success early in the semester.
- Leverage Navigate in recruitment efforts by gathering and disaggregating student data from various systems. They segment students by specific identifiers like recent stop-outs, number of credits earned, distance from graduation, ESL designation, and adult vs. first-time-in-college students—all in addition to a student’s self-identification as Hispanic or Latine/x.
- Track Navigate kiosk data to discover who is engaging with their programming.
All of this work helps inform how HCC recruits best-fit students for the El Centro program and creates services and supports to best serve their Latine/x students.
Don't miss out on actively engaging Latine/x students
Engaging these students is necessary for more reasons than your school’s enrollment. According to a 2020 report from the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, for the U.S. to reach the top spot in the world for college degree attainment, Latine/x students will need to earn 6.2M degrees by the year 2030. Now’s the time to strategize on how to reach these students and adopt programs and technologies that will help them succeed.
Ready to find out more?
Watch our on-demand webinar, Modernize Student Recruitment, to learn more.