Excelencia in Education highlights San Antonio’s experience with removing financial aid barriers for students to inform national efforts

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SAN ANTONIO, March 3, 2014Excelencia in Education has released a comprehensive, two year case study, The Impact of Financial Aid on Student College Access and Success: The San Antonio Experience, to help communities across America in their efforts to better serve Latino college students. The case study details San Antonio’s place-based collective impact journey in financial aid. The findings and lessons learned in San Antonio are valuable contributions to the national dialogue on reimagining financial aid design and delivery.

Download the report here.

“From our inception, Excelencia has been very fortunate to partner with community-based organizations and leaders from across the country working directly with students to inspire and conspire to improve Latino students’ preparation, access, and success in postsecondary education,” said Deborah A. Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy of Excelencia in Education.  “Our strategies for research, policy, and advocacy with a Latino lens builds on authentic relationships in communities and institutions that guide our own learning from their innovation and knowledge base.”

Co-authored by two community leaders, Noé C. Ortiz and Eyra A. Pérez, the San Antonio experience demonstrates how a community can partner across different sectors and institutions to remove financial aid as a barrier for students to access postsecondary education.  The success of the financial aid initiative is founded on the premise that the truest impact occurs when issues that impede student progress are owned by the greater community.

“The importance of this work is the collaboration among different partners to reach and assist students to overcome a primary obstacle in going to college—financial aid,” said Noé C. Ortiz, director of student financial aid for process improvement, compliance, and reporting at Alamo Colleges. “In San Antonio, financial aid is everybody’s responsibility.”

With a 72 percent Latino population, San Antonio is the largest majority-Latino city in the United States; however, based on 2011 American Community Survey data, there remains a 20 percent degree completion gap between Latino adults the overall adult population of the city.  Given the increasing proportion of Latinos in communities across America, examining efforts in San Antonio to increase college completion can reveal useful strategies for other communities.

The case study details how the collective efforts of many partners in San Antonio have focused on building the infrastructure to get more students into and through college. The financial aid community and its many partners remain committed to building upon this foundation to help increase the college attainment of San Antonio’s students. The case study also offers concrete examples for proactive communities to improve college success for Latinos and other post-traditional students.

The case study examined successes, challenges and lessons learned in creating and implementing three San Antonio components: 1) Student Aid Saturdays San Antonio, 2) Financial Aid Curriculum for High School Students, and 3) Financial Aid Council of San Antonio.

“San Antonio’s financial aid journey was founded on the recognition that pockets of excellent effort and widespread collaboration already existed in our community. Thus, the initial work focused on strengthening and connecting those efforts, paying homage to the very good work that has occurred and the goodwill that has been built,” said Eyra A. Pérez, executive director of the San Antonio Education Partnership.  “There is a core belief that through the alignment of resources, services, and programming to connect the most unconnected students we will achieve the collective goal of increasing college attainment in San Antonio.”

San Antonio’s growth, diversity, and leadership in strengthening the opportunity for success of its community, provides a useful case study for other communities throughout the United States. In this context, three components of San Antonio’s journey can also inform national discussions on financial aid outreach and support: 1) partnership development; 2) the Latino student and financial aid; and, 3) data use to inform financial aid initiatives.

“By bringing together diverse stakeholders to collaborate with an intentional focus on increasing Latino student success, we provide real solutions for policymakers, higher education leaders, and communities who understand that college completion is America’s path toward a stronger future” said Sarita E. Brown, president of Excelencia in Education.  “Sharing this critical work is an example of that collaboration.”

Download the press release here.

Excelencia in Education is a Washington, D.C.-based national non-profit organization whose mission is to accelerate Latino student success in higher education.