LAWRENCE — The Department of Higher Education has named Northern Essex Community College a statewide model for preparing Latinos for college success.
Between the fall of 2011 to 2012, Latino enrollment at the school increased 16.2 percent. Hispanics at the college make up 34 percent of the student population, a 76 percent increase in five years. In addition, Latinos are graduating at a large rate, from just 98 in 2007–08 to 281 in 2012–13, a 187 percent increase.
“We’re very pleased with the progress we’re making, but we have a long way to go,” said NECC president Lane Glenn.
He credits the surge in enrollment, retention and graduation rates to more outreach at Lawrence High School and in the community.
Over the past two years, enrollment counselors have visited Lawrence High once a month, instead of every semester, as was done in the past. There, the counselors talk to students about the college, what degrees they can earn, career opportunities and financial aid.
“Financial aid is a huge issue because, for a lot of students, college can seem unattainable. If (the students) don’t know about all the financial aid available to them, we try to get that message out there — that there are scholarship opportunities,” he said.
“The receiver (Jeff Riley) has been a good thing for Lawrence, as he encourages collaboration, allowing us to do more work with the high school’s principal, which is starting to pay off,” he said.
Glenn said 50 percent of Lawrence High School graduates attend Northern Essex.
“The message across all families and cultures are pretty clear. Today if want to get anywhere in America, you have to get a college education,” he said.
Glenn said the college also has a relationship with Central Catholic and Notre Dame Cristo Rey high schools, both in Lawrence.
“This is the fastest growing population in the last 10 years,” Glenn said as the reason why the college is focusing on Hispanic students. “This is not just for the future of the students, but the work force and our country.”