How successful is Florida at graduating Latino college students? On a national level, the state performs admirably.  Of Florida’s Latino adults, 29% had completed an associate’s degree or higher, a good nine percentage points above the national average for Latino adults.

Those numbers, and others cited in this post, come from a report released last week by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, DC-based nonprofit that tracks state, national and territory progress in achieving Latino student success in higher education. Understanding the trends among this youthful , growing population—Florida has the nation’s third-largest number of Latino residents—is key to improving the state’s degree attainment rate. With a median age of 33 (compared to 44 for white, non-Hispanics), Latinos make up more than a quarter of the state’s K-12 population, according to report figures.

Two Florida higher ed institutions lead the nation in the number of degrees awarded to Latinos.  Miami Dade College came in tops in the nation at enrolling Hispanic students, with over 44,000 Latino freshmen entering the campus, where they made up 70% of the student body in 2011-12. That same academic year, MDC also produced more Latino associate’s degree holders than any other two-year college in the country. Florida International University was also recognized as the nation’s top four-year university when it comes to granting degrees to Latinos. Over the 2011-12 school year, FIU awarded 4,549 bachelor’s degrees.

Nonetheless, Florida still needs to make progress on key metrics of Latino degree attainment. On the state level, 29 percent of Latinos had earned an associate degree or higher compared to 34 percent of the total population.  The college graduation rate of Florida Latinos, 51%, remains behind the national average of 55%.

The online report concludes that for Florida’s Latino degree attainment to reach par with the general population, Florida must execute three highly difficult tasks – close the college completion equity gap, increase the number of degrees produced by state higher ed institutions and scale up and replicate programs that have been demonstrated to increase Latino student success and persistence.

To find out more, download Excelencia in Education’s new report: Latino College Completion: United States

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