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New Report Details Enrollment, Graduation Trends

New Report Details Enrollment, Graduation Trends
At Hispanic-Serving Institutions

By Charles Dervarics

Hispanic-serving institutions have realized significant gains, both
in numbers and importance, as a growing Latino population increasingly seeks greater access to higher education, a new study says.

Despite representing only 6 percent of all post-secondary institutions nationwide, Hispanic-serving institutions enroll nearly half of all Latino college students, says the report from Excelencia in Education. The number of HSIs — or colleges with Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent — also has increased to 236 from just 131 a decade ago.

“As the Latino population continues to grow, so will the number of Latino college-bound students,” said the report, “Inventing Hispanic-Serving Institutions: The Basics.” Release of the report coincided with a Capitol Hill forum on the growth of HSIs that included U.S. Rep. Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, education task force leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. The report detailed enrollment and graduation trends at these institutions and the role they play in Latino education.

The federal government has played a role in this growth through a $95 million annual program to support improvements at these colleges. But, according to the report, much work remains to be done.

“When we talk about Hispanic-serving institutions, we find that we still spend most of our time explaining what they are and how the federal program to support them works,” Hinojosa says.

The new report examines long-term trends in the growth of HSIs and the Latino student population. For example, the study finds:

– Sixty-seven percent of HSIs are public institutions and 26 percent are part of state or local public higher education systems.

– At $1,590 on average, tuition at public,
four-year HSIs are less than half the price of other public colleges. Two-year HSIs also have tuitions that are lower than the average.

– Nearly 30 percent of HSIs are in large cities, and more than 75 percent are in California, New Mexico, Texas or Puerto Rico.

More HSIs also are gaining a foothold in new communities. For example, HSIs are growing in Kansas, Massachusetts and Washington, three states not traditionally known for their large Latino populations.
But while more colleges nationwide qualify as HSIs, Latino education experts also want to see more attention given to development of graduate programs at these institutions.

“We are looking to take Hispanic-serving institutions to the next level,” Hinojosa says. “Latino students remain underrepresented among college faculty and among students receiving advanced degrees, and this trend must change.

“We cannot afford to wait to address the shortage of Hispanics with advanced degrees,” he says. Such an initiative is essential “so that Hispanics can be among the drivers of our knowledge-based economy.”

Hinojosa and U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., are proposing the Next Generation Hispanic-Serving Institutions Act, which would create a new federal initiative of graduate support for HSIs. A similar federal appropriation supports development of graduate institutions at historically Black colleges and universities.

In 2001, Hispanics earned only 5 percent of all master’s degrees, 3 percent of doctoral degrees and 5 percent of first professional degrees. They also continue to represent only 3 percent of instructional faculty, which is unchanged from the early 1990s.

For a decade or more, there has been “virtually no closing of the gap in advanced degree attainment between Hispanics and other groups,” Hinojosa says.

Legislation approved by House and Senate committees would create a new federal program of graduate support. However, that legislation has yet to reach the floor in either chamber.

Excelencia in Education says its new report is the first of several planned to provide increased attention to HSIs. The next report will focus on factors that prompt Latino students to enroll at these colleges, while a final report will highlight college and university practices that support Latino student success.

These studies will help fill a major knowledge gap, say experts. “HSIs are important institutions for Latinos, yet little research exists on them,” the report said.

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