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ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and Univision Team Up for Research and Recommendations to Support Hispanic Students in Their Quest to Attend College

IOWA CITY, Iowa—As students head back to school, ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning and Univision Communications Inc., the leading Hispanic media company in the U.S., are issuing recommendations to help overcome higher education challenges Hispanic students face.

The recommendations are found in the joint ACT-Univision report, Breaking Down Barriers: Understanding Hispanic High School Students’ Perceptions on the Transition to College.

Hispanic students make up roughly 18 percent of all college students and are one of the largest minority groups on U.S. campuses. However, Hispanic students tend to meet ACT College Readiness Benchmarks at lower rates, on average, than their non-Hispanic White counterparts. In addition, Hispanic students may face added barriers in navigating the landscape of the college application process, leading to lower rates of educational attainment.

To better understand these hurdles and how to help solve them, the Center and Univision held a series of focus groups to discuss the college-going process with 44 parents and 50 students, who were in either 11th or 12th grade and were predominantly first-generation, college-bound students. Both students and parents were interviewed separately and were asked questions about college expectations, future career aspirations and ways to get there, financial aid, college admissions testing, college readiness and navigating post-secondary education.

“This research should be a wakeup call to education leaders and the country as a whole,” says Jim Larimore, chief officer for ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning. “The Hispanic population is growing rapidly in the U.S. and we think it’s essential to ask parents and students about their experiences, listen to their insights and then examine what we can all do to improve outcomes. We’re glad to have Univision, a trusted leader in communications, and a key resource to the Hispanic population, as a partner in this effort.”

“We’re proud to work with ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning on this important research as part of our ongoing partnership to positively impact Hispanic student success,” said Univision’s Executive Vice President of Government and Corporate Affairs, Jessica Herrera-Flanigan. “While Hispanic students face some hurdles, we’re confident that together, we can make progress and help ensure that more students are better prepared to pursue college, career, and future success in their lives.”

The organizers say U.S. policymakers and stakeholders need to do the following:

  1. Improve opportunities for students to discuss the transition to college with guidance counselors or other high school staff

    Proper guidance is needed for Hispanic students to make sense of and complete the necessary steps to successfully transition to and through postsecondary education. Having time set aside for group conversations or having regularly scheduled meetings for a student to talk with a guidance counselor to discuss all aspects of the college process would be helpful for students. Students in the focus groups said they wished that school staff would be more proactive, rather than reactive, when it comes to helping students as they are applying for college. Proactive efforts may also increase students’ confidence by helping them feel better prepared for testing, especially in areas surrounding topics that students may not have covered in class. It may also help students to have more time for practice questions and tests and spend more time discussing the essay portions of standardized tests.
  2. Provide opportunities for parents to be included in the college application process and have questions answered

    Including parents in the process is vital for both parents and students to understand and support each other, answer questions and ensure that deadlines are being met. Univision offers parent/family college fairs that give them the opportunity to speak with experts and have questions answered about the college application process. Additionally, having a time specifically set aside for parents, such as a College Night at the student’s high school, providing recorded videos of these events for parents that cannot attend, or having an email newsletter for parents about the college application process, may help them understand not only the application process but also what comes after that, such as applying for college housing or financial aid.
  3. Increase resources to ensure first-generation or minority students’ college success

    High schools and universities should take into consideration how first-generation or minority students may transition into college, especially as a lack of financial aid is often the largest obstacle for Hispanic students for attending and completing their college degree. Specifically, making students aware of fee waivers for standardized tests and waivers for or access to free test preparation materials, such as ACT® Online Prep or ACT® Academy™, is important in order to give students the tools to prepare and take the necessary tests. Univision also puts valuable tools and resources into the hands of parents. Some of these resources can be found on the Univision website: univision.com/act and univision.com/contigo.

Research Details


A majority of parents in the focus groups had not attended college, while some had completed their degrees or vocational training in their place of origin.

These interviews were conducted in January 2019 across the United States, including in San Diego, San Antonio, New York City, St. Louis and Chicago. Students and parents were recruited from different regions of the United States to better understand if there were potential differences in their experiences across geographical locations.

About ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning


ACT’s Center for Equity in Learning focuses on closing gaps in equity, opportunity and achievement for underserved populations and working learners. Through purposeful investments, employee engagement, and thoughtful advocacy efforts, the Center supports innovative partnerships, actionable research, initiatives, campaigns, and programs to further ACT’s mission of helping people achieve education and workplace success. http://equityinlearning.act.org

About Univision Communications Inc.


As the leading Hispanic media company in the U.S., Univision Communications Inc. entertains, informs and empowers U.S. Hispanics with news, sports and entertainment content across broadcast and cable television, audio and digital platforms. The company’s top-rated media portfolio includes the Univision and UniMás broadcast networks, as well as cable networks Galavisión and TUDN, the No. 1 Spanish-language sports network in the country. Locally, Univision owns or operates 65 television stations in major U.S. Hispanic markets and Puerto Rico. Additionally, Uforia, the Home of Latin Music, encompasses 58 owned or operated radio stations, a live event series and a robust digital audio footprint. The company’s prominent digital assets include Univision.com, streaming service Univision Now, the largest Hispanic influencer network and several top-rated apps.

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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.

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