Cultural celebrations are a critical part of our nation’s history. These events recognize and honor the racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity of the United States while also bringing attention to important systemic injustices and issues, such as education inequity. Providing equitable access to college for historically underrepresented racial groups is a chief concern among educators and policymakers. Minority-Serving Institutions like Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) play a critical role in ensuring that racial and ethnic minorities have access to equitable educational opportunities and an opportunity to improve their social and economic mobility.
Designated by the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities and former President Barack Obama, National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week takes place from September 12–18, 2022, coinciding with the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from September 15–October 14. Let’s take a closer look at HSIs and how you can celebrate them this week.
A look at Hispanic enrollment
Racial and ethnic minorities continue to face systemic barriers to college entry and completion, so it’s important to recognize and acknowledge the pivotal role Hispanic-Serving Institutions play in eliminating those barriers. According to Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) enrollment data from the 2020–2021 academic year, 559 HSIs (18% of all higher education institutions) enrolled 66% of all Latino undergraduates.
Hispanic people are projected to account for almost one-third of our nation’s population by 2060, and President Obama proclaimed in 2015 that “ensuring Hispanic students have access to the best education possible is important to securing America’s success.” After declaring HSI Week, he also encouraged public officials, educators, and people of the United States to observe this week by holding events and programs, ceremonies, and activities to acknowledge the pivotal role these institutions play in our educational landscape.
Related: Public Four-Year Hispanic-Serving Institutions
What defines a Hispanic-Serving Institution?
In the 1980s, a grassroots group of colleges advocated for more federal support for schools with high Hispanic populations. In 1986, 18 schools came together to form the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU), which continues to play an important role in advancing educational opportunities for Hispanic students. With increased federal support and funding, more schools joined the HACU and Congress continued to designate funding and allocate resources to HSIs.
A Hispanic-Serving Institution is defined by federal law as an accredited, degree-granting, nonprofit public or private institution of higher education with 25% or more full-time undergraduates identifying as Hispanic or Latino. HSIs provide students with increased mentoring and cultural enrichment opportunities, with faculty, staff, and students who share their cultural identity and lived experiences. Many HSIs also integrate bilingual programs into their services, and students can plan and attend events that center around and honor Hispanic culture. They are often found in cities with a significant Latino population such as Los Angeles, San Antonio, Chicago, Detroit, and Miami. Some examples of HSIs include:
- Azusa Pacific University in Azusa, California
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- Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida
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- Marymount University in Arlington, Virginia
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- Regis University in Denver, Colorado
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- Western Connecticut State University in Danbury, Connecticut
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You can view a full comprehensive list of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the US on HACU’s website.
Related: Hispanic-Serving Institutions 101: What Students Should Know
How to celebrate and advocate for Hispanic-Serving Institutions
College students play an extraordinary role in promoting awareness of HSIs given the critical role they play in shaping social and political policy. Even if you’re not of Hispanic heritage, students, staff, and faculty invest in institutions that provide access and educational opportunities to undeserved students. Given recent political events that have impacted Hispanic populations—such as the lack of comprehensive immigration reform and curtailing of the Dreamers Act—we should all be advocates for ensuring historically marginalized groups have equitable civil rights. Here are some ways students can get involved in this week’s celebration.
Learn more about how HSIs fit into the higher education landscape
For many students, the freedom to choose a college is a privilege, and for historically marginalized students, this choice carries much history, strife, and sacrifice. Unlike HBCUs, HSIs weren’t created exclusively to educate Hispanic and Latino students. With the increase in the Hispanic population nationwide and the founding of the HACU, they asked Congress to officially recognize campuses with significant Hispanic enrollment as federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions. In 1995, these institutions were granted $12 million from the federal government to champion Hispanic success in higher education. Most recently, these institutions were appropriated more than $140 million in 2020.
While HSIs are still gaining increased traction, it’s important to learn how they best serve our ever-growing and diverse society. You can learn more about these institutions by checking out Minority-Serving Institutions, Journal of Hispanic Education, and Excelencia in Education.
Engage with the #HSIWeek Twitter hashtag
Most college students utilize social media and thus play an important role in shaping dialogue on political and social events. During HSI Week, you can show your love and support online and take time to learn about their historic and contemporary contributions. You can also encourage your school’s admission office to participate in the campaign and share information to the student body about HSIs through their social platforms. If your campus is holding an event or activity in recognition of HSI Week, tweet about this event to share it with the broader community.
Encourage your institution to offer funding to attend HSIs
One significant barrier to college graduation is availability of and access to scholarships and financial aid. With the rising cost of college tuition, affording a four-year college degree is a challenging task. For students who are in high school or attending a two-year community college, consider asking your institution’s foundation or scholarship office to host a fundraiser for students who would like to attend a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
Organize a virtual HSI college fair and visit schools
College fairs provide visibility to prospective students and allow them to meet and engage with local colleges. Choosing a college is an overwhelming decision and can cause a lot of stress for many students given the plethora of options. If you live in a city or state with a large Hispanic population, you may be close to a few HSIs. Consider working with your school’s admission or student life office to host a virtual Hispanic-Serving Institution college fair. Hosting a virtual event gives institution representatives who may be unable to physically get to a location an opportunity to participate. Then after getting to know these schools at a fair, consider visiting some of them. Sign up for college tours and learn more about their academic offerings and campus life while encouraging other students to do the same.
Related: Hispanic Clubs and Community on College Campuses
Hispanic-Serving Institutions play an extraordinary role in the higher education landscape, and they deserve to be celebrated as such. There are plenty of ways to show your support during this year’s HSI Week, so get out there, keep learning, and connect with these incredible institutions.
Considering applying to some HSIs? Start searching for your best-fit school with our College Search tool.