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Report Analyzes Latino College Completion State by State

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The states with the largest Latino populations don’t necessarily have the best track record for graduating Latinos from college, a new state-by-state analysis shows.

According to the report from the advocacy group Excelencia in Education, in 2011-12 only about 20 percent of Latinos ages 25 and older had at least an associate’s degree. The overall population had a much higher rate, at 36 percent.

The two states with the largest Latino populations, California and Texas, fell below the national average, at 16 percent. Illinois, at 17 percent, and Arizona, at 16 percent, also were below average.

In a news release the report’s author, Deborah Santiago questioned an uncomfortable truth: “Why does California, the state with the largest Latino population in the nation, not have a single college break into the top five nationally for awarding degrees to Latinos?”

Florida fared well, as 27 percent of Latino adults there had attained degrees. In addition, Miami Dade College was the higher education institution with the most Latinos enrolled in 2011-12. According to the report, 44,809 Latinos attend the college.

Miami Dade has a dual admission program with Florida International University, so it’s not surprising that FIU had the fifth-largest Latino enrollment in the nation with 23,584 Latino students.

Miami Dade and FIU were also respectively the top institutions in the country for awarding associate and bachelor degrees. Miami Dade graduated nearly 8,000 Latinos with associates degrees and FIU graduated more than 4,500 with bachelors degrees.

South Texas College in El Paso and the University of Texas at El Paso also placed respectively high in associate and bachelor degree graduates.

The private for-profit University of Phoenix also placed in the top five for graduating Latinos with associate and bachelor degrees.

Enrolling Latino students doesn’t necessarily result in equal numbers of graduates. Some colleges, often community colleges, have high dropout rates.

“We have to focus on the institutions that are not just enrolling but graduating our students,” Santiago, the report’s author, told NBC News.

The report also found that the gap in graduation rates between Latino and white students dropped from 14 percent two years earlier, to 9 percent.

Excelencia provides online fact sheets on each state, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The group gathered the data by relying on the Institutional Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), 2011-2012 enrollment and completion data, and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES).

Excelencia does not just track data on graduation rates, it also maintains a Growing What Works Database that profiles higher education programs that help Latino students.