Excelencia in Education, the nation’s premier authority on efforts accelerating Latino student success in higher education, announced today the University of Central Florida has been certified with the Seal of Excelencia.

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The national announcement was made this morning by Excelencia in Education during a press conference in Washington, D.C., where UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright accepted the certification in person. James Kvaal, the U.S. Department of Education Under Secretary, delivered remarks.

UCF is one of just 10 institutions nationwide to earn the Seal of Excelencia this year, and one of just 24 institutions in total that have earned the certification. An institution earns the Seal by demonstrating evidence of effective and intentional institutional practices that serve Latino students; positive momentum for Latino students’ progress; and a dedication to transform the institution into an environment where Latino students can thrive.

“The Seal of Excelencia illustrates UCF’s longstanding commitment to student success and our efforts to intentionally serve Latina/o/x students.” — UCF President Alexander N. Cartwright

“The Seal of Excelencia illustrates UCF’s longstanding commitment to student success and our efforts to intentionally serve Latina/o/x students,” UCF President Alexander Cartwright says. “By investing in leadership, programs and practices that support Latina/o/x student success, we enhance the educational experiences and opportunities of all students. This has a powerful and lasting impact at UCF and for our community.”

Latino students make up 29 % of UCF’s undergraduate student body — a rate that designates UCF as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

UCF has invested in numerous pathways that serve Latino students and position them to succeed. A few examples include:

  • DirectConnect to UCF, a nationally recognized model where students who earn an associate degree from a partnering state college earn guaranteed admission to UCF. Since launch in 2006, there has been a 432% increase in degrees earned by DirectConnect Latino students.
  • CREAR Futuros Peer Mentoring Program that pairs Latino freshmen and sophomores with trained and knowledgeable upperclassmen who introduce them to campus resources and the opportunity to network with local Latino professionals.
  • A Latinx Leadership track within LEAD Scholars, a selective two-year leadership development program for undergraduate students.

These pathways are intentional and effective, as the retention rate (first-year students who return to continue their studies) of Latino students at UCF is now 92% — the same as the overall retention rate of the UCF student body.

Combined, the 24 Seal-certified institutions enroll 10% of all Latino college students and have graduated 12% of all Latinos in the U.S., says Deborah Santiago, co-founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education.

UCF, Miami Dade College and Florida International University are the only institutions in the state that have earned the Seal.

“UCF and the Seal-certified institutions articulated and demonstrated 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,” Santiago says.

Also this week, the U.S. Department of State recognized UCF as one of 35 inaugural “Fulbright HSI Leaders” based on its high level of engagement with the prestigious Fulbright Program, which enables students and faculty to participate in international cultural exchange opportunities. UCF also last month was honored for the seventh time with the Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award from INSIGHT Into Diversity magazine.