Four Hispanic siblings smiling, with one woman in grad cap and gown with diploma

Hispanic-Serving Institutions 101: What Students Should Know

Hispanic-Serving Institutions are dedicated to supporting and celebrating Hispanic students. Here's what you should know about these incredible schools.

Higher education institutions benefit tremendously from a culturally and ethnically diverse student body. Over three decades ago, the movement to raise the profile of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) began. The goal was to increase awareness and boost enrollment of Hispanic students in postsecondary education. Every year, Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week is celebrated in September as part of Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15–October 15). Here’s what you should know about these incredible institutions.

What is a Hispanic-Serving Institution?

A college or university is considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution if their enrollment of full-time undergraduates is made up of at least 25% Hispanic students. The institution can be either public or private—Affordable Colleges Online reports that two-thirds of all HSIs are public and have fewer than 2,000 students—but they must offer at least two-year degree programs. According to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, in 2020, 539 colleges and universities were defined as Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Related: List: Public Four-Year Hispanic-Serving Institutions

What support and resources do these schools offer?

Hispanic-Serving Institutions strive to meet students where they are then equip them with the tools and resources they need to succeed academically, personally, and professionally. HSIs offer a wide range of programs and services for their students, such as:

  • Roundtable discussions with special-interest topics
  • Student clubs and focus groups
  • Campus-wide programs and events

Some of these resources are meant specifically for Hispanic and Latinx students, while others are open to the entire student body with the intention of increasing awareness, celebrating culture, and encouraging discussion about various issues. Like all schools, HSIs are committed to student success and continue to look for ways to enrich the college experience for all students through diversity and sharing experiences.

Top reasons to choose a Hispanic-Serving Institution

There are many reasons why students select the school they ultimately attend: the welcoming feel of the campus, the academic programs, the faculty, the student body, or any combination of these factors. But Hispanic-Serving Institutions’ specialized mission of developing a vibrant Hispanic student population and their commitment to diversity and inclusion helps them stand out. Students may not necessarily recognize a school as an HSI (it’s a notable credential from an institutional standpoint, but many students may not be familiar with the term), but if a student wants to be part of a multicultural campus experience, an HSI is a great choice. Here are just some of the reasons students choose to attend Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

School reputation

HSIs usually have a long history of academic excellence and are highly regarded postsecondary institutions for both community and academics. Programs are typically rigorous, and students can expect to work hard.

Classes

Colleges and universities offer a broad range of academic programs—this is often a deal maker or breaker for many students when it comes to choosing a school. Many HSIs offer specialized majors and minors targeted at the Latinx experience or courses in various disciplines that give students from all backgrounds the opportunity to learn more about Hispanic history and culture in greater depth.

Location

Many HSIs are in or near areas with large Hispanic populations. This gives Hispanic students the opportunity to attend a culturally supportive college close to home if traveling a long distance isn’t feasible. Plus, students of non-Hispanic descent have even more opportunities to immerse themselves in and learn about other cultures both on and off campus.

Diverse student population

One of the most rewarding aspects of going to college is living, studying, and making friends with students from all walks of life. HSIs have a robust Hispanic student population but will likely have an even more diverse student body, with students coming from all parts of the country (and world) and from a wide range of cultural and ethnic backgrounds. That appreciation for diversity is what draws students to campus—it’s only when they’re walking among the buildings and grounds that they truly discover the extent of that cultural richness. It’s not unusual to hear over two dozen languages being spoken on this type of campus.

Support, motivation, and inspiration

From translators for ESL students to assistance with transitioning to college (and postgraduate life) to peer mentoring, Hispanic-Serving Institutions are sensitive to students’ needs and will provide the support and resources you need to succeed.

Related: List: Private Four-Year Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Exploring Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Some of the most recognized US-based HSIs include:

But let’s not stop there! Here’s an in-depth look at even more great Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

Reading Area Community College

Reading Area Community College in Reading, Pennsylvania, has the distinction of being the first community college in Pennsylvania to meet HSI criteria. RACC has an active Hispanic student population and a team of administrators committed to student success. The College has a wealth of support services and resources available, including several bilingual staff and faculty members in multiple departments who can assist ESL students. The College’s Multilingual Learning Center, a key space for students in the English for Academic Purposes program and part of RACC’s tutoring services, is a place of community for all students. “It’s a model we’re hoping to replicate in other areas of the campus,” says Jodi Corbett, Associate Vice President for Community and Academic Partnerships. Professional development sessions for faculty provide opportunities to learn more about Latinx culture, which can then be integrated into classroom instruction.

Our Lady of the Lake University

Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, is home to the Center for Mexican American Studies and Research, an on-campus facility that draws on the rich Mexican American heritage that comprises much of San Antonio’s West Side. The Center is a valuable resource for students, faculty, and members of the community that maintains a focus on building relationships between these populations.

Related: 5 Hispanic Heroes Throughout History: Los Hombres

University of Central Florida

The University of Central Florida in Orlando has embraced their recognition as an HSI and celebrates their students’ rich cultural backgrounds. The College offers a Latin American Studies major, a Hispanic/Latino Media Certificate program, and several Latin American student clubs and organizations on campus. UCF has been an active partner in several initiatives within the Latin American community for many years.

College of Mount Saint Vincent

A Catholic liberal arts college in New York City, the College of Mount Saint Vincent has a student population that’s predominantly Hispanic. According to their website, the College has the highest graduation rate for Hispanic students in the sciences as well as one of the highest graduation rates in the US among HSIs.

Related: 5 Hispanic Heroes Throughout History: Las Mujeres

All of these colleges and universities recognize and celebrate Hispanic students’ accomplishments and contributions to the school and surrounding communities. Be sure to check out the many other HSIs that provide a rich college experience. One of them could be the perfect match for you!

Find the right Hispanic-Serving Institution for you using our College Search tool.

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