Home / Articles / News / Cover Story / COVER STORY: A Work InProgress
2011 September 19 - 12:00 am

COVER STORY: A Work InProgress


A   S P E C I A L   F O C U S   O N   H I S P A N I C S


AP photo
As more Hispanic students graduate from high school, increasing numbers are enrolling in college. The number of Hispanic-Serving Institutions is also increasing. Colleges are working to help students succeed and earn college degrees.

C  O  V  E  R     S  T  O  R  Y

A Work In Progress

As Hispanics Surge Into College, HSIs Are On the Rise
Compiled by Paul Bradley

A new statistical portrait of Hispanic-Serving Institutions shows them showing up in unexpected places but still concentrated geographically along the country’s southern border and Puerto Rico.  >> See Chart

Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C-based education advocacy group, reports that HSIs are appearing in states that are thousands of miles from Mexico, such as Illinois, New Jersey and Massachusetts.

But HSIs represent only about 10 percent of all institutions of higher education and most are located in states long associated with large Latino populations.

“Over half of all Latino undergraduate students in higher education (54 percent) are enrolled in less than 10 percent of institutions in the United States,” the report says. “This concentration of Latino enrollment in higher education was first recognized by educators and policy makers in the 1980s and contributed to the invention of a new construct, which came to be known as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).”

HSIs now number 293, located in 17 states and Puerto Rico, the Excelencia analysis found.

HSIs were first formally recognized by the federal government in 1994, and defined as colleges with Hispanic enrollments of 25 percent of more. Then, 135 colleges met the criteria.

Today, colleges such as Capital Community College in Hartford, Conn., and Dodge City Community College in Dodge City, Kan., meet the definition of HSI’s, according to Excelencia. Community colleges account for 47 percent, or 137 colleges, of the nation’s HSIs.

Coupled with a new surge of young Hispanics into college, as documented by the Pew Hispanic Center, the growing roster of HSIs underscores a demographic shift now under way in American higher education. While the number of young non-Hispanic whites attending college is on a downward trend, the number of Hispanics going to college is headed in the opposite direction.

HSIs have taken on added gravity as policymakers acknowledge that the Obama administration’s ambitious agenda for boosting the number of college graduates can’t be achieved without increasing the graduation and retention rates among Hispanic students.

The number of HSIs appears poised for growth. Excelencia’s analysis identified another 204 colleges as “Emerging HSIs,” with Hispanic enrollments of between 15 and 24 percent, and the potential to become full HSIs as the Hispanic population continues to grow. Of that number, 83, or 41 percent, are community colleges.

The Excelencia report provides both a statistical snapshot of HSIs and gives a common framework for defining the institutions.

While federal law defines HSIs, the report noted that “the federal government does not designate institutions as HSIs. Further, there is no government agency charged with certifying an official list of HSIs. As a result, the field has responded by creating multiple lists of HSIs developed for different purposes using definitions that vary from federal law. These multiple lists complicate efforts to establish a common understanding of HSIs, their strengths and needs by researchers, policymakers, advocates and students.”

Excelencia drew on statistics available from the National Center for Education Statistics Integrated Post Secondary Data Systems (IPEDS) to come up with its listing. It found:

  • The HSIs are located in 17 states and Puerto Rico, representing just under 10 percent of all institutions of higher education.

  • More than half (54 percent) of Latino undergraduates were enrolled at HSIs in 2009-10.

  • HSIs remain concentrated geographically. Almost 75 percent of HSIs are located in 3 states and Puerto Rico. California has the most HSIs (89), followed by Puerto Rico (56), Texas (49), and New Mexico (24).

  • HSIs are also growing in states not generally known for having large Latino populations, such as Kansas, Massachusetts, and Washington.

  • While 47 percent of all HSIs (137) are community colleges, just over 21 percent of HSIs (62) were public colleges or universities. Only 28 percent of HSIs (81) were private, not-for-profit 4-year institutions and 4 percent (13) are private not-for-profit 2-year institutions.

  • HSIs provided more access to Latinos and other students than other degree-granting institutions of higher education. In 2009-10, 60 percent of HSIs (175) had an open admissions policy, compared to 38 percent of all degree-granting institutions.

  • Of the 293 HSIs, 112 offer graduate degrees (43 offer doctoral and first professional degrees).

Part of the rise in the number of HSIs is being fueled by an increase in the number of Hispanic students enrolling in college. The Pew report said that in just one year, the number of Hispanics ages 18 to 24 on American college campuses grew by nearly 25 percent. At the same time, the number of white students in that same age group declined.

Opposite Directions

The 24 percent increase in Hispanic college enrollment means that an additional 350,000 more young Hispanics were in college in 2010 compared to the year before. Pew said it is the largest such increase on record, and is substantially higher than the 7 percent increase in the overall population of Hispanics in that age group.

At the same time, the proportion of young whites in higher education is falling. There were 320,000 fewer young non-Hispanic whites in college in 2010 compared to the year before. The drop is explained both by a declining population of whites and retreating academic achievement. Both the percentage of non-Hispanic whites graduating from high school and the percentage of high school graduates enrolling in college declined last year, the Pew report found.

The report cited numerous reasons for the spike in Hispanic college enrollment. The poor economy is a critical factor, with fewer jobs available for students who earn no more than a high school diploma. Many of the jobs where Hispanics are overrepresented, such as the construction trades, have disappeared.

Because job prospects for young people are so bleak, more Hispanics are headed to college instead of into the workforce. Also, immigration and high birth rates have made Hispanics the country’s largest minority group. In 1972, just 5 percent of the nation’s 18-to-24 year olds were Hispanic; by 2010, that share rose to 19 percent.

But population increases alone can’t account for the increase in college enrollment among Hispanics, the report said.

“Rising educational attainment is the more dominant driver of these enrollment trends, over the long term as well as in recent years,” the report said. “The share of young Hispanics enrolled in college rose from 13 percent in 1972 to 27 percent in 2009 to 32 percent in 2010.”

Much of the growth in college enrollment among young Hispanics has been at community colleges. Of all young Hispanics attending college last October, 46 percent were at a two-year college and 54 percent were at a four-year college, the Pew report found. By contrast, among young white college students, 73 percent were enrolled in a four-year college, as were 78 percent of young Asian college students and 63 percent of young black college students.

Overall, college-age Hispanics represented 1.8 million, or 15 percent, of the 12.2 million young adults in college.

IT'S YOUR TURNL:  CCW wants  to hear from you!

Q: What does the increase in the number of Hispanic students mean on your campus?

Q: What is the best way for college to help Hispanic students earn a degree?

Share your opinion: ccweekblog

Log in to use your Facebook account with
CC Week

Login With Facebook Account

Advocates Say Full Academic Load Is Key to On-Time Graduation

helps students. College students who enroll in 15 credits in their first semester, and 30 credits a year, accumulate mor... Full Story

Next Issue

Click on Cover
to view


League Leads Effort To Embed Colleges In Public Health Education

Community colleges long ago cemented their place as a central and critical contributor to the country’s health care wo... Full Story