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Posted at 10:38 AM ET, 03/11/2011

Initiative seeks 5.5 million Hispanic grads by 2020

By Daniel de Vise

A consortium of non-profits and foundations this week highlighted what they say is the necessary role of Hispanics in driving the national goal of regaining the world lead in college completion.

President Obama has proposed retaking that lead by 2020. Many other higher education organizations have joined the initiative, sometimes underscoring the importance of one sector or demographic group in contributing to the goal -- community colleges, public universities, blacks and Hispanics, college dropouts and so forth.

This latest initiative was presented by the non-profit Excelencia in Education in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation and other heavy hitters.

Called Roadmap for Ensuring America's Future, the initiative suggests Hispanics will have to earn 5.5 million college degrees by 2020 if the nation is to reach 51 percent degree attainment -- a goal that's actually toward the lower end of the completion-target spectrum. Other groups have suggested 55 or 60 percent completion.

Other leaders have pointed to the importance of focusing on Hispanic college attendance and completion: Hispanics are less likely than other racial and ethnic groups to finish college, partly because of cultural factors: Hispanic families may be relatively reluctant to take on debt, for example.

Research from the consortium shows Hispanic students often enroll part-time, later in life, and at community colleges close to their homes; "state and institutional initiatives that focus on those students can make a big difference," they said in a release.

Among their recommendations: institutions focus on programs that increase retention for working students, increase college-preparatory and dual-enrollment programs, simplify two- to four-year transfers and guarantee need-based aid to deserving students.

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By Daniel de Vise  | March 11, 2011; 10:38 AM ET
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