A report this week from Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing Latinos' educational opportunities, noted that the pool of colleges and universities defined by the federal government as "Hispanic-Serving Institutions" has grown from 236 to 293 in a six-year period.
Referred to as HSIs, the colleges and universities defined as such are highly concentrated, located in 17 states (California having the most) and Puerto Rico and representing just under 10 percent of all higher learning institutions. And for that matter, so are Latino students: During the 2009-2010 school year, these schools were home to 54 percent of Latino undergraduates.
It's this concentration that makes the HSI definition important. From the report:
The identification of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) was created in the 1980s. Leaders at the federal, state, and institutional levels recognized that a small set of institutions enrolled a large percentage of Latino students but had low levels of resources to educate these students. The classification of HSIs formally recognized these institutions for capacity-building and other support.
Colleges and universities classified as HSIs have access to funding that allows them to expand opportunities, academic offerings and attainment for Latino students.
Even so, the offerings of institutions benefiting from the federal HSI program skew heavily toward two-year degrees. Nearly half (47 percent) of these schools are community colleges, according to the report, which draws statistics from the U.S. Department of Education. Only 21 percent are public four-year colleges or universities; only 28 percent are private four-year institutions. Less than half the designated HSIs offer graduate degrees.
The report doesn't make specific recommendations for improvements, but it does list the HSIs with graduate programs (California, with its multiple state universities, has the most of these in the U.S.). It also lists 204 "emerging" HSIs, colleges and universities whose Latino enrollment is between 15 and 24 percent. Of these, 113 were four-year institutions.
A recent Pew Hispanic Center study showed a spike in Latino college enrollment, making Latinos the largest minority group on U.S. college campuses for the first time.