Sunday, September 16, marked the start of National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week. The celebration, which extends through Saturday, September 22, coincides with Hispanic Heritage Month and recognizes the impact that Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) have had on our communities. Although HSIs represent just 9 percent of all nonprofit postsecondary institutions, they serve more than half of all Hispanic students.
The movement to support these institutions began in the early 1980s with national hearings on postsecondary education that brought attention to the fact that Hispanic enrollment was increasingly concentrated in a small number of colleges and universities. Under federal law, HSIs are defined as accredited institutions of higher education at which at least 25 percent of full-time undergraduate students are Hispanic. At least half of those Hispanic students must come from low-income families. With limited exceptions, Hispanic-serving institutions were not created to serve Hispanic students — rather, their HSI designations were the result of their existing demographic makeup.
Title V of the Higher Education Act provides competitive five-year grants to Hispanic-serving institutions to expand educational opportunities for students. In June, the U.S. Department of Education awarded more than $12 million in funds to 19 institutions. Grant recipients may spend the money on a variety of projects, from faculty development to purchasing new educational materials to creating new university programs in student services, academic affairs, or other areas.
Through these funds and the leadership and direction of higher education administrators, many HSIs have done an exceptional job of supporting Hispanic students through graduation. More than 300 colleges and universities met the federal definition for Hispanic-serving institutions in 2010–11, and many of AAUW’s college/university partner member institutions identify as HSIs.
At California State University, Long Beach, a longtime C/U partner, administrators and faculty have worked hard to garner federal support for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education. Through a federal grant, the university is implementing programs to increase the number of Latino students who are earning degrees in STEM fields. Programs like these are essential for helping these students gain access to opportunities in STEM.
Our Lady of the Lake University, another C/U partner, has done an exceptional job increasing the number of Hispanic students who earn degrees in the STEM fields and has been recognized for its efforts. At the University of Texas, El Paso, administrators are using federal funds to integrate green energy and manufacturing courses. Their project trains Hispanic and women students to be at the forefront of energy technologies.
C/U partners California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, and Pasadena City College together are using a Title V grant to increase the degree completion rate for Hispanic students and to smooth the transfer process for all students.
So why celebrate #HSIweek? Because these institutions are working to improve access to education for all students and are advancing equity for traditionally underserved students. Here are four easy ways you can get involved:
- Learn more about Hispanic-serving institutions and how they fit into U.S. higher education. Check out Excelencia in Education, the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, and Understanding Minority-Serving Institutions.
- Search through our list of current AAUW college/university partner members to see if a partner institution near you is an HSI.
- Engage in the conversation using the #HSIweek Twitter hashtag. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities is encouraging HSIs to tweet about campus achievements, notable alumni, and the best new programs.
- Pass this information on to someone else!
This post was written by AAUW College/University Relationships Manager Christine Hernandez.