Fewer Latinos are going to college, despite population growth

Olivia Sanchez

The Hechinger Report

The number of colleges with a Latino enrollment rate of at least 25% has declined during the pandemic, reversing a 20-year trend in higher education and putting these students at a disadvantage, experts say.

Colleges with at least 25% Latino enrollment are designated as Hispanic Serving Institutions, or HSIs, by the federal government and are eligible for certain grant programs to support Latino student success. Such resources can improve the quality of education for these students and ensure that they receive sufficient support to complete their degrees.

Data from the 2020-2021 academic year shows that 42 colleges previously designated as HSI fell below the threshold that qualifies them.

At the same time, 32 new HSIs were added, leaving the list of schools with this designation 10 shorter than the previous year. It’s the first time in two decades that the total number of HSIs has fallen, according to advocacy group Excelencia in Education, which tracks colleges that are at and around the HSI threshold. Proponents attribute these changes to decline in enrollmentchanges in how some colleges report their student demographics and a handful of small, private, nonprofit colleges designated as HSIs that have closed entirely.

Despite the nearly 2% decline, the total number of HSIs still stands at 559. Although they represent only about 18% of all post-secondary institutions in the United States and Puerto Rico, they enroll to about 66% of all Latino students, according to Excelencia. in education.

Nationally, the number of Latino students enrolled in college between fall 2019 and fall 2021 fell by about 7%, according to data from the National Student Clearinghouse. But the Latino population in the United States continues to grow.

Declining HSIs and declining Latino student enrollment point to a clear conclusion for Deborah Santiago, President and CEO of Excelencia in Education: Institutions need to invest more and work harder to serve pursuing Latino students. studies. And even though enrollment is the only criteria for obtaining HSI status, Santiago said efforts must go beyond and do more to determine what it really means to serve and support Latino students.

“You have to know who you serve and what serves them well, and something that works in another community may not work in yours,” Santiago said at a recent Exelencia online event. “It takes that extra effort, rather than guessing” to find out what Latino students need.

Instead of focusing exclusively on the deficits they assume these students will have, college administrators need to focus on the value of Hispanic culture and community and find a way to leverage it to help students succeed, Santiago said.

Northern Arizona University has approximately 26% Latino students, slightly above the threshold required for HSI status. He urged Congress to increase federal cash flow to HSIs and other colleges that serve large student populations from underrepresented groups by increasing Pell grants and funding infrastructure improvements.

Nationally, increased investment in the K-12 public school system will also be essential, Cruz Rivera said, to help foster students’ college aspirations and ensure they are ready for them. to pursue.

U.S. Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks, a Republican from Iowa, said despite the injection of federal pandemic relief funds, colleges must be strategic about how to use their regular funding to adapt their programs. academics to help students excel in the job market.

HSIs and other institutions that welcome students from historically underrepresented groups “are known to be engines of upward mobility for millions of students,” Miller-Meeks said. “Attending one of these institutions could be a way for many Americans to achieve career success.”

At the University of California, Riverside, serving Latino students during the pandemic to ensure they stay enrolled and engaged has been a challenge, but one that administrators find worth taking on, Chancellor Kim Wilcox said.

The university has been an HSI since 2008, and its Latino enrollment has hovered around 40% for several years. For Latino, Black, and White students, the six-year graduation rate is about 75%, a number Wilcox hopes to increase for all students.

To do this, he said, the university strives to identify and meet the specific needs of different groups of students, including racial and ethnic groups, students who were previously in the system of foster care and students from other historically underserved groups. He said they try to foster a sense of community on campus from the first year and make classes available at multiple times of the day to accommodate students with work or family responsibilities.

“You have to be deliberate,” Wilcox said. “Some things that help all students help all students, but there are groups of students that need special attention.”

This story about HSI was produced by The Hechinger Report, an independent, nonprofit news organization focused on inequality and innovation in education. Subscribe to our higher education newsletter.

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