Higher education institutions serving Hispanics are our focus. Given Hispanic learners’ particularities, it is vital to spotlight those institutions with a greater responsibility of guiding Hispanic students, our future professionals, toward success. Although HETS does not exclusively serve Hispanic Serving Institutions, in order to understand the significance of interventions to better serve the Hispanic community of learners and learning facilitators, it is important to look at the role and work of the denominated Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).
HSIs are those two-year and four-year post-secondary institutions that have an enrollment for more than 25 percent of Hispanic full-time equivalent students (FTEs). Most of these institutions were not actually created to serve Hispanics, but to serve their respective local communities. However, with the outgrowth of Hispanics in many regions of the US, these turned into Hispanic communities. Suddenly, this population outgrowth reflected upon the institutions’ student populations. Thus, according to Excelencia in Education (2007), it has been Hispanic student themselves who have created HSIs.
There are approximately 335 HSIs in 14 states and Puerto Rico, with almost 50% of them located in Texas and California (Perrakis and Hagedorn, 2007). In 2004, almost 70% of HSIs were community colleges educating almost half of all Hispanics enrolled in higher education institutions (Laden, 2004).
Interesting Facts about HSIs (Excelencia in Education, 2006)
HSIs keep growing in number
They are concentrated where the Hispanic population is concentrated
Most of them are concentrated in urban areas
Provide greater access to Higher Education than other institutions
Many are public institutions
Are usually more affordable than similar institutions
Who are attending HSIs?
Together, HSIs serve over 587,740 FTE Hispanic students, more than half attending two-year institutions (Perrakis and Hagedorn, 2007). Hispanic-Serving community colleges serve the most diverse student populations (Benitez and DeAro, 2004). In addition to more than 40% Hispanic enrollment, community colleges serve a significant proportion of African Americans, Asian Americans, and whites.
Why focus on the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions?
According to Perrakis and Hagedorn (2007), one of the most important aspects of HSIs is the way they manage to be a source of hope to Hispanic students, their families, and all those interested in the educational and professional progress of this significant population subgroup. This is of even further importance if we consider that the Hispanic population in the US is expecting to keep increasing and shaping the population dynamics of the country. Data reviewed by Parrakis and Hagedorn (2007) shows that HSIs are producing outstanding numbers of graduates from associate’s and baccalaureate degree programs. This, in turn, reveals the importance of HSIs in integrating a Hispanic workforce to the market. As expressed by De Los Santos and De Los Santos (2003), HSIs have an impressive opportunity to prepare the future Hispanic leaders in the country.
Efforts to achieve student success at these institutions go beyond the focus on Hispanic learners. Many Hispanic-Serving Institutions have been, for years, developing and implementing strategies to increase success possibilities for their increasingly diverse student populations. These colleges and universities are adapting their activities to the needs of the Hispanic population and other non-traditional student populations (Mitchell, 2005). For instance, as emphasized by Benitez and DeAro (2004), after investing time and resources in understanding their student community, HSIs have focused their retention efforts in the alignment of their student support services with their academic programs, a strategy that has helped provide the necessary environment to support students in dealing with their many life and school related challenges. HSIs are possibly the best positioned to take the challenges linked to this fast growing student population segment (De Los Santos and De Los Santos, 2003).
Benitez, M. & DeAro, J. (2004). Realizing Student Success at Hispanic-Serving Institutions. New Directions for Community Colleges, 127 (Fall 2004).
De Los Santos, A.G. & De Los Santos, G.E. (2003). Hispanic Serving Institutions in the 21st Century: Overview, Challenges, and Opportunities. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 2(4), 377-391.
Excelencia in Education (2006). Inventing Hispanic Serving Institutions: The Basics. Washington, DC: Excelencia in education.
Excelencia in Education (2007). Citing Cost and Location, Half of All Latino College Students Attend “Hispanic Serving Institutions”. Retrieved from www.edexcelencia.org.
Perrakis, A. & Hagedorn, L.S. (2007). Serving Latinos: The History and Growth of Hispanic Serving Institutions. Unpublished Manuscript.