Colleges where at least 25% of enrolled students are Latino are eligible to apply for federal designation as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). While the number of HSIs is growing—an encouraging sign of progress in postsecondary access and opportunity for Latino students—only 46% of Latino students graduate, compared to 62% of white students according to a 2017 report published by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Today’s Latino students also include a large proportion of adults, who have different needs than younger students transitioning directly from high school.


The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), a national nonprofit leader in adult learning and workforce development, has developed a partnership with Excelencia in Education (Excelencia), an existing Ascendium grantee focused on improving outcomes for Latino students. In partnership with Excelencia, CAEL is conducting the Adult Learner 360 Academy for HSIs, a project that will allow HSIs to evaluate how effectively they are serving their adult students and implement new practices to increase enrollment, persistence and completion.

Because this work advances our mission to help more historically underrepresented students complete postsecondary credentials, we’ve committed $1.3 million to the three-year project. The Kresge Foundation and Greater Texas Foundation are also investing in the initiative.

In late 2018, CAEL selected 15 HSIs from a pool of 40 applicants to participate in the Academy. After an initial planning period, the colleges will implement CAEL’s Adult Learner 360 diagnostic tool, which uses surveys of students, faculty and staff to explore opportunities to increase student success. CAEL will then consult with each college to identify opportunities for improvement and build an action plan with measurable goals. CAEL will provide resources while the colleges implement their plans, and the HSIs will come together annually for the Latino Adult Student Success Convening.

As part of the project, CAEL will produce and disseminate case studies exploring the experiences of adult learners using institutional metrics. We believe this work will help build awareness around the particular needs of adult students, uncover better ways to serve adults at HSIs and ultimately help more students graduate 


Contact Senior Program Officer Sue Cui at