Latino students equal white peers in Nevada’s college grad rate

The good news is that Latinos graduate from college at the same rate as whites in Nevada.

The bad news is that those numbers are still below the national average.

Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based research and advocacy organization, found that 39 percent of Silver State Latinos and whites graduate from college in four years, compared with 41 percent and 50 percent nationally.

Thirty-nine percent of Nevada’s population is Latino.

The 2014 report, conducted by co-founder Deborah Santiago, was based on 2009-2011 U.S. Census data.

“This is one of the very few states were there is no equity gap in graduation rates,” Santiago said.

If Latino students enroll as first-time, full-time freshmen, their success rates are equal to white students.

College graduation rates show an overall improvement from 2007-2008 Census numbers, when Nevada’s Latino and white graduation rates were 33.9 percent and 37.7 percent.

Part-time and nontraditional students, however, graduate at rates of 12 percent for Latino students and 15 percent for white students, which is lower than the national average.

Still, it also has improved from a gap of 3.7 percent in the organization’s previous report.

Santiago credits an increase in support services.

Jose Melendrez, vice president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Office of Diversity Initiatives, agrees that civic engagement, advising, advocacy and student support have improved college graduation rates among Latinos.

“This is good news and it’s hopeful, but Nevada still has a lot of work to do,” Melendrez said.

In Nevada, 13 percent of Latino adults hold associate degrees or higher, compared with 29 percent of adults overall.

There also is inequity at the high-school level.

In 2013, 64 percent of Hispanic students graduated from high school, compared to 77 percent of white students and 71 percent overall.

Nevada still can improve degree-attainment among nontraditional students and students in need, Santiago said.

“We didn’t put this together to tell a negative story,” Santiago said. “We wanted to look at the opportunity. This is a time to invest in education for the benefit of Nevada.”

Contact reporter Kristy Totten at ktotten@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3809. Find her on Twitter: @kristy_tea.