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What is a “Hispanic-Serving Institution?”

Latino education
Hispanic-Serving Institutions increase the success rate of Latino students in higher education.

As Latino students increase at U.S. colleges and universities, several schools have been preparing everything from student services to faculty as a way to welcome and meet the needs of students.

Currently, about 13% of all colleges and universities in the U.S. are officially considered “Hispanic-Serving Institutions” with their number growing each year as the percentage of Latino students in higher education grows.

Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) is a term adopted and defined by the U.S. Department of Education in 1992 as part of the Higher Education Act.

Specifically, the Higher Education Act authorizes the U.S. Department of Education to provide grants and other assistance to HSIs for the purpose of “improving and expanding their capacity to serve Hispanic students and other low-income individuals.”

Formally, an HSI is defined as “an institution of higher education that is an eligible institution and has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time students that is at least 25% Hispanic.”

There are several requirements for an institution to be eligible in the first place, such as being accredited and offering undergraduate degrees, with a renewal application required on an annual basis.

But HSIs can be public or private institutions of higher education and do not need to target just Latino students, such as San Francisco State University.

The latest data on the number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions puts the count at 523 total HSIs throughout 25 U.S. states, in D.C., and in Puerto Rico, which is about 13% of all higher education institutions in the U.S.

The top five states with HSIs are: California (170 HSIs), Texas (93 HSIs), Puerto Rico (63 HSIs), New York (34 HSIs) and Illinois (25 HSIs).

A complete list of HSIs can be found on the website of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), which is an association of colleges and universities dedicated to advancing the success of Latino students in higher education.

HACU began in the year 1986 with 18 institutions and now represents more than 470 colleges and universities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain.

With a strong initiative from HACU, Congress amended the Higher Education Act in 1992 and adopted the official recognition of Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Now HSIs enroll about 60% of all Latino undergraduate students in the U.S.

In terms of funding, there was a total of $120 million granted by the U.S. government for HSIs in 2018, specifically for programs geared towards Latino student success. That funding is expected to increase to $150 million later this year.

Each college and university use the funding at their discretion but with the goal of improving the success of Latino students. Goals and activities can range from academically focused projects such as increasing mentorship opportunities for Latino students to college recruitment and outreach activities geared towards high schools with a large Latino presence.

As part of the support to Hispanic-Serving Institutions, there are three specific federal programs that provide funding to HSIs: (1) to improve the success of Latino students in undergraduate programs; (2) to increase the presence and success of Latino students in STEM fields (these are programs in science, technology, engineering, and math), and (3) to increase the Latino presence in graduate programs (beyond the bachelor’s degrees).

Since their inception in 1992, Hispanic-Serving Institutions have increased the success rate of Latino students in higher education, especially by increasing activities geared towards improving learning.

For example, more than 74% of full-time undergraduate students at HSIs graduate within the expected time of 6 years, whereas the average graduation rate in the U.S. for undergraduate programs is around 43%.

Also, HSIs are more racially and ethnically diverse than non-HSIs, with HSIs having about 25% of its student population to be of Latino background, whereas the presence of undergraduate Latino students in colleges and universities in the U.S. is about 20%.

Overall, Hispanic-Serving Institutions serve the Latino community very well as they: improve the chances of Latino students graduating with a bachelor’s degree, have lower drop-out rates of Latino students, offer more financial aid to Latino students, provide a higher level of student services geared towards the needs of Latino students, and offer a greater degree of affordability overall.

About the author

Claudia Araiza

Dr. Claudia Araiza has held positions in various capacities in business, academic, and governmental settings ranging from business and economic analysis, business development, academic administration, research, teaching, and online course development. She is a graduate from San Diego State University with a BA degree in International Business and Economics and an MA degree in Economics. She received her PhD in Economics from Claremont Graduate University. She lives in San Diego,California.

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