Number of Hispanic Serving Institutions More Than Doubled Over Last 20 Years

Posted By Eliana Osborn on February 18, 2016 at 2:52 pm
Number of Hispanic Serving Institutions More Than Doubled Over Last 20 Years

Colleges and universities with 25% of their students identifying as Hispanic have been considered Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI) since 1994 under the Higher Education Act.  An updated look at HSIs from Excelencia in Education finds 62% of Latino students are attending HSIs, totaling 1.75 million Latinos.

Excelencia’s report focusing on 2014-15 was released recently.  They’ve been tracking changes to HSIs since 2004.  Most HSIs are found in California, Puerto Rico and Texas, but 18 states host at least one such school.  There are 435 HSIs in the US and Puerto Rico, up from just 189 in 1994.  Since last year, there’s been a 7% increase in Hispanic Serving Institutions with 27 more being added.

Growing, college-ready Latino population

Breaking it down further, the split between two-year and four-year schools is 50/50.  There are another 310 campuses with Hispanics representing more than 15% of the full-time student population, falling short of the HSI designation but still significant for future potential growth.  68% of HSIs are public institutions.  On average, HSIs have non-Hispanic students making up 54% of their populations, creating diverse learning communities.

In a press release, Excelencia in Education president Sarita Brown states, “Accelerating Latino student success requires better understanding the institutions where students are choosing to enroll.”  The Department of Education reports that Latinas make up 25% of K-12 schools nationally and more than 50% in some states. As more and more Latina students reach college age, they’ll be looking to choose campuses with a solid track record of equality and diversity.

Resources available at Hispanic Serving Institutions

Deborah Santiago, COO and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education answered questions by email when asked why it matters what schools are serving large numbers of Hispanic students.  “Knowing there is a high concentration of Latinos in a limited number of institutions creates opportunities for those with limited resources to invest in strategies and efforts at those institutions that can help these students succeed.”

New America’s Postsecondary National Policy Institute explains how HSI designations came about in the first place.  “In the early 1980s, a series of congressional hearings on Latino access to higher education focused on two themes: Latino students lacked access to higher education and many who began degree programs did not complete them, and Latinos were concentrated at institutions of higher education that received limited financial support from the federal or state governments.”

Data is power.  By tracking student success in college, schools can determine what they are doing well at and where they stand to learn from others.  Research from the Institute of Higher Education Policy finds wide differences in how well different schools do at enrolling low-income students, a large proportion of whom are Hispanic.  Northwestern University reports that some colleges present a more inviting message to low-income students as well.  These types of studies are one way to improve higher education for all students.

Santiago explains that Hispanic students should not necessarily seek out an HSI when choosing where to attend college.  “I do not think the focus should be on limiting access to opportunity only to the institutions that have the highest concentrations of these students. The U.S. has a diverse offering of institutions of higher education that serve different purposes and roles with different costs and benefits. HSIs are defined by their concentrated enrollment of Latinos, and the numbers of HSIs continues to grow, as we have shown in our data. As the Latino population interested, prepared, and able to enroll in college grows, so too will the number of institutions enrolling Latino students.”

Grants to improve services at Hispanic Serving Institutions are competitive, requiring schools to apply for Title V dollars.  As more and more schools fall under this classification, the struggle to fund programs will intensify.  Those institutions who can show successful initiatives will lead the way.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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