The number of Latino students who are going to college is on the rise, and they don’t all fit the profile of what institutions might consider the typical freshmen on campus.

They’re more likely to be first-generation, working to support themselves and caring for dependents than other college students, according to a new analysis by Excelencia in Education. The nonprofit researches and promotes policies around Latinos in higher education.

“Our intent in putting this compilation together was to not only clarify the current profile of our students, but hopefully inform and compel thoughts about what more we can do to serve them better and increase the degree attainment,” says Deborah Santiago, the organization’s CEO and co-founder.

Half of Latino college students are the first in their family to pursue a higher education degree, meaning they can’t necessarily lean on parents for advice on navigating their new environment. Their families also have lower average incomes than every other group except Black students.

Rather than looking at those characteristics as obstacles, Santiago says colleges have an opportunity to provide “information guardrails” for students who need help understanding essentials like financial aid or the courses they will need to graduate.

More than half of Latino students were enrolled either exclusively part time or had “mixed enrollment,” which the analysis describes as between part-time and full-time enrollment, during the 2019-20 academic year.

That may be in part because many also work while going to college, whether to fund their education or support themselves. According to the analysis, more than half of Latino students worked 30 or more hours each week.

Santiago says that students who work at least 30 hours per week are more likely to “stop out” and take time off from school to save up more money for tuition. Or they might choose to attend part time to make the cost more manageable.

“All of those are things we know in general can limit the potential of completion,” Santiago says, adding that institutions can respond with strategies like employing those students directly on campus, providing more financial support or having robust online access to support services.

“If [students] have chosen to go to college, they have an educational goal. How do we help them get that?” Santiago says. “And I just think we don't ask that question enough, because we're always saying, ‘What do students need to do more of? And what do they need to change?’ I think that's fine to say that, but we also have to put the onus on institutions and decision-makers.”

Read the full article about supporting Latino students by Nadia Tamez-Robledo at EdSurge.