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Oregon might seem like an unlikely place to focus on encouraging Latinos to pursue higher education, but that's exactly what's happening. Between 1999 and 2009, the number of white students in grades K-12 in the state dropped by 14 percent, information from the Oregon Department of Education shows. The number of Latinos during this same time increased by 89 percent, according to the Department of Education.

A college or university education isn't only important to an individual's financial success. It's important to the nation's economy. According to a recent report from the Lumina Foundation for Education, more employers these days require a college or university degree, and they're willing to pay for the needed skills and knowledge. Non-skills jobs, the report noted, are beginning to disappear.

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The Lumina Foundation by 2025 wants to increase the percentage of Americans with an associate's degree or better to 60 percent. To accomplish that, the group intends to focus in part on Latinos. In the next decade and a half, the group, Excelencia in Education notes, Latinos are expected to comprise 25 percent of the population that is college or university aged.

The American Enterprise Institute in March released a report, "Rising to the Challenge: Hispanic College Graduation Rates as a National Priority." At the average college or university, the report noted, 51 percent of Latino's complete a bachelor's degree program in six years as compared with 59 percent of white students. Latinos don't always understand the true cost of college and university studies, reports show. They often opt for community colleges that offer the most affordable tuition rates and in many instances work full-time to pay for their studies.

Colleges and universities that focused on retaining and graduating students saw the best success in terms of Latinos who earned bachelor's degrees, according to the report. In reporting on the study's findings, the Dallas Morning News in March cited success that a private university in the state has had with Hispanic graduation rates. According to the article, a Methodist university in Texas boasts a multicultural coordinator who handles Hispanic student programs and offers Hispanic students mentoring services and scholarships. The institution graduated 71 percent of its Hispanic students as compared with 73 percent of white students.

Latinos in Oregon account for less than 10 percent of the population, but the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce there has established an endowed Oregon Latino Scholarship Fund. An Oregon Commission on Hispanic Affairs works toward equality for the state's Latino population and serves as advocates for them. At least one public university in the state offers an advocacy program where it recruits Latino students and, by offering students and their families academic, financial and social support services, works to retain them as well.

In other states, such as Florida, an Hispanic Student Assembly at a Gainesville university's Institute of Hispanic Latin Cultures introduces new students to what the institution has to offer, including an Hispanic leadership forum and monthly Hispanic cultural events. In Miami-Dade, a college president has been named by President Barack Obama chairman of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans. A university in Miami with schools ranked highly in terms of Hispanic graduation rates offers an Hispanic Alliance of employees designed to help students.

Oregon Is Encouraging Its Latino Communities To Pursue Their Education