Giving Compass' Take:

• Hispanic-serving institutions are growing as more Latino students are attending college. There is a desire from higher education universities to become HSIs, but there is the responsibility of advancing Latino students that comes with that label. 

• Experts comment on how HSIs may be "Hispanic-enrolling" but are not producing the intended high graduation rates and outcomes for their students. How can these institutions improve? Who is holding them accountable for results? 

• Read about the benefits of these institutions for Latino students. 

The University of Central Florida opened during the civil rights movement, and from the beginning, school leaders made racial diversity a priority. In 1969, the school established a black student union. In 1970, it developed an affirmative action strategy.

The school is increasing its resources for Latinos, hosting roundtables on undocumented immigrant students and offering workshops on topics such as “Latinidad and LGBTQ+.” After Hurricane Maria, it welcomed displaced Puerto Ricans and gave them an in-state tuition break.

Cyndia Muñiz, UCF’s assistant director for Hispanic-serving initiatives, said her institution has embraced the growth. “We want to be an example of what it means to be a Hispanic-serving institution, if not the example,” she said.

There are incentives to do so. Any school with at least 25 percent Hispanic enrollment can apply to be federally recognized as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a label that can qualify them for federal grants. UCF hit that enrollment threshold in the 2017-18 school year. It expects to be on the Department of Education’s list of Hispanic-serving schools by the end of 2018, Muñiz said.

Many colleges and universities are eager for the Hispanic-Serving Institution label. Beyond the potential grant dollars, being identified as “Hispanic-serving” makes them more attractive to minority students as schools vigorously compete for dwindling numbers of undergraduate learners.

“Despite their growth, HSIs have been criticized for solely being ‘Hispanic-enrolling,’ meaning they enroll a large percentage of Latina/o students but do not necessarily produce equitable outcomes,” wrote Gina Garcia, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh, in the Review of Higher Education journal in 2016. “Focusing solely on enrollment and graduation rates creates a limited understanding of what it means to have an identity for serving Latina/o students.”

Read the full article about Hispanic serving institutions by Delece Smith-Barrow at The Hechinger Report