UCR is among one of 10 colleges and universities to be awarded the 2021 Seal of Excelencia by nonprofit group Excelencia in Education. Excelencia in Education is a Latina-led organization that was created in 2004. The Seal of Excelencia award was launched in 2019. The award recognizes the university for its success in assisting Latino and Hispanic students excel in and complete their higher education.
Being one of the most diverse UC campuses, of the 22,000 undergrad students that UCR enrolls, 10,000 identify as Chicano/Latino students and 80% identify as first-generation.
At UCR, there has been a 48% increase in the graduation of Latino students from 2016-17 to 2020-21. The six-year graduation rate for Latino students has also increased to 73%, compared to the national average of 54%.
Being first-generation, language barriers and inaccessibility are a few of the challenges that some Latino students face when starting their higher education. Becoming involved in on-campus organizations that help support and remind students of home is what helped fourth-year political science major, and Latino union president, Jessica Hernandez find her place at UCR.
“When I first started at UCR, I honestly had a hard time adjusting and finding my place on campus. I experienced such a large culture shock, I came from a community and high school that was majority Latino but when I started at UCR, I was one of only a handful of Latinos in my courses. Since I was feeling very out of place in the classroom I was hoping to find this kind of familiar feeling somewhere else on campus, lucky for me I came across Latino Union,” said Hernandez.
“One of my friends took me to LU’s meeting and I instantly felt welcomed. Being a member of LU has honestly helped me so much during my time here at UCR. The community LU has built has played such a large role in my college experience in and outside of the classroom. LU gave me the opportunity to not only connect with the Latino community on campus but we actively reach out to the Latino community in the Riverside area. I met my best friend thanks to Latino Union, and I’ve been able to find my home away from home. That is something I am very thankful for.”
The programs that UCR offers transfer students to assist their higher education journey were also highlighted and praised by Excelencia in Education. At UCR, transfer students are guided through mentorship programs that allow them to connect with other students to help them in transitioning from community college to a four-year university. When applying to UCR, there is a transfer admission guarantee for California residents who “TAG” the campus. In 2017, UCR also implemented a program that created a 2-to-1 admission ratio for freshman to community college applicants.
“The Seal of Excelencia certified institutions have been able to articulate and demonstrate they are modeling the behavior we need to see to accelerate Latino student success. They are having measurable impact in changing the face of higher education,” stated Deborah Santiago, CEO, Excelencia in Education on their website.
Out of the 10 campuses selected, UCR is one of five recognized in California. The other California institutions are: California State University Fresno, California State University Fullerton, San Diego State University and University of California Merced.