Why This Funder Is So Committed to Getting More Latino Kids Through College

We cover a lot of philanthropic efforts to expand the number of low-income kids of color who go to college —and, as importantly, complete their degrees. Some of these initiatives are national in scope, but others are focused regionally or locally as funders look to postsecondary success to ensure social mobility and economic growth amid large-scale demographic changes. Because Latinos are the fastest-growing group in the U.S., it's no suprise that some funders are laser-focused on improving college access for young people from this population.

What's happening in Arizona is a good example.

According to the Helios Education Foundation, only about 37 percent of adults in Arizona have at least an associate’s degree, but for the state’s Latino population, that figure is more like 19 percent. Those figures are simply unacceptable for many funders in the Southwest, and Helios has launched a new $5.1 million initiative to tackle the issue.

This is not new terrain for Helios. As we've reported, this funder has previously made substantial grants in this area, both in Arizona and in Florida.

Related:One Funder's Strategy to Boost College Completion Rates in Two Fast-GrowingStates

Helios’ solution is a new career and college readiness program called the College Knowing & Going initiative. It’s currently targeted at 83 Arizona high schools within 18 school districts in the state, and the bulk of these serve low-income and Latino populations. The target schools are located in the following counties: Maricopa, Santa Cruz, Coconino, Navajo, Apache, Gila, Mohave, Pima, Pinal and Yuma.

The big goal, here, is to increase the number of students who enter and complete college, which it's doing by assisting with college applications, making ACT costs free, and helping students complete FAFSA forms.

Helios Education Foundation’s president and CEO, Paul Luna, said in a press release that the initiative will impact 145,000 students over the next five years, which is a lot of students. He also said that the "partnership is helping create a college-going culture across the school districts, increasing the likelihood that these students will succeed in college and career and propel our state’s economy forward."

Preparing kids for college is a big deal all across America, but especially in a state like Arizona. Studies indicate that at least 68 percent of all jobs in the state will require a college degree in the next four years. Meanwhile, a majority of Arizona’s youth are kids of color, with Latinos making up the biggest share of that population. Many of these young people are growing up in low-income immigrant households. Ensuring that those kids are able to access opportunity and build skills is critical to Arizona's future.

Helios’ initiative is a five-year effort. Unlike some other college prep efforts in the area, this is a highly practical approach that’s all about key infrastructure and resources. Check out the foundation’s College and Career Readiness Theory of Change, which was updated last summer, to get a better sense of how this approach falls in line with its overall goals of shaping the formative years according to its ideals.