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HSI Increases Reflect Growing Student Enrollment, Matriculation

New data analysis about Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) from Excelencia in Education and the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) reveals that such institutions are on the rise around the country, including in less-expected states such as Connecticut, Oregon and Tennessee.

Dr. Deborah SantiagoDr. Deborah Santiago

Researchers noted an increase of 20 HSIs up from last year and documented 333 emerging HSIs that have 15 percent to 24.9 percent of undergraduate full-time-equivalent Latino enrollment. The data showed that the institutions enrolled 65 percent of all Latino undergraduates in the country for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Located in 21 states and Puerto Rico, 492 HSIs account for 15 percent of all colleges and universities in the nation. Notably, 192 of these institutions, or 39 percent, offer graduate degrees, according to the data.

“In general, the increase indicates the numbers of Latinos enrolling in college continues to grow, as does their concentrated enrollment,” said Dr. Deborah A. Santiago, chief operating officer and vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education. “For advocates, the increase also signals an opportunity to invest in these institutions as a targeted opportunity to increase Latino college enrollment, retention and degree completion.”

Santiago added that the increased number of HSIs and rates in Latino college enrollment is an opportunity for policymakers to develop and implement the policies and practices in K-12 and higher education that can reduce equity gaps in attainment.

Dr. John Moder, senior vice president and chief operating officer at HACU, provided a similar analysis behind the increase in HSIs. He said it also is an indication of the continued demographic growth of the Hispanic population over the last 15 years.

“That’s leading to more Hispanic students in college, and that’s leading to more Hispanic Serving Institutions – more institutions that are reaching the 25-percent threshold,” Moder said, referencing the threshold needed for an institution to be designated as an HSI under the Higher Education Act.

Unlike historically Black colleges and universities whose designation is based on the institutions’ mission to serve their students, HSIs receive their designation by enrollment only.

Dr. John ModerDr. John Moder

“In some cases, this means institutions became HSIs due to demography and geography rather than intentionality in serving Latino students,” Santiago said. “However, increasingly, some HSIs are becoming trendsetters in serving Latino students and are investing in the community engagement, student outreach, academic and support services to attract, retain and graduate Latino students that create the shared success stories that compel others to enroll.”

Analysis of Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) statistics for 2016-2017 shows 215 public two-year HSIs and 22 private two-year HSIs. Additionally, there are 120 public four-year HSIs and 135 private four-year HSIs.

Of the 333 emerging HSIs, 103 are public two-year institutions, eight are private two-year institutions, 74 are public four-year institutions and 148 are private four-year institutions.

The primary factors that lead nearly 1.97 million Hispanic students to choose HSIs are access, location and cost, Hispanic higher education leaders and researchers say.

“By and large, Hispanic students choose Hispanic Serving Institutions because they are the most convenient institutions,” Moder said. “They’re closest to home, they tend to be relatively affordable … so convenience and price are probably the two big driving forces.”

Moreover, representation can be a factor.

“It helps that you can go to a college campus and feel at home there,” Moder added. “This is a place where I’m not standing out, I’m not looking like I don’t belong.”

Santiago and Moder acknowledged that their organizations were not surprised to see HSIs emerging in states such as Connecticut, Oregon, Tennessee or Washington because the groups have been tracking Latino demographic growth and HSI increases for many years. Excelencia in Education even created the “emerging HSI” category in anticipation of the growth of the Latino population in every U.S. state, Santiago said.

“The fastest-growing Latino populations are in Tennessee and Kentucky and then Georgia,” she said. “Most people who see this list will be surprised because they always think of California, Texas, New York, Florida, and they don’t think of Latinos in Oregon and Iowa and Arkansas. We’ve got emerging HSIs…in places that you don’t think about.”

Moder predicts that the country will continue to see forward momentum on the number of institutions meeting the 25-percent HSI-threshold, as well as increases in the number of Hispanic young people attending college.

Santiago emphasized that the number of selective institutions that become HSIs will continue to grow, as will the “the interest in identifying institutions that go beyond enrolling Latinos to retaining and graduating Latinos.”

While there has been progress, there is still a gap between Hispanic students and non-Hispanic White students in terms of high school graduation and college matriculation, Moder said.

“The big push now is to make sure that they are successful both in academics and in their later careers,” he said.

Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at [email protected]. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.

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