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HSI: what’s in it for us, where we’re heading

By Cory Phare

May 30, 2018

MSU Denver Campus Jordan Student Success BuildingAchieving Hispanic-Serving Institution status not only ensures Metropolitan State University of Denver is a welcoming destination of choice for Latino students, it unlocks new educational opportunities and reaffirms the transformative access at the heart of our institutional identity, benefitting all students at the University. 

And though we’ve reached one big milestone with having at least 25 percent of students who self-identify as Hispanic (26.4 percent in fall; 26.2 percent in the spring), there is still more to do. 

“We’re not federally designated as an HSI yet, but we’re making great progress for a distinction that will benefit all of MSU Denver” said Angela Marquez, Ph.D., special assistant to the president for HSI. “According to our census enrollment data, we’ve reached the first benchmark.”

To continue the progress, the HSI implementation task force – convening each month – has several initiatives underway that will benefit the entire student population, Marquez said. The transfer and enrollment working group is mapping the entirety of the transfer process. And it is surveying transfer students who have left the University to better understand what didn’t work for them.

“By analyzing information by different demographic factors, we’ll be able to understand the population, factors that influence their decision to (leave) and what intervention strategies can have the most impact,” Marquez said. “And though this is starting initially with the HSI group, eventually it can be applicable to all populations at MSU Denver.”

Achieving HSI status opens the door to apply for substantial funding for the University, Marquez said. This involves large Department of Education grants, such as cooperative ones submitted with partner institutions for $3.5 million and individual grants for $2.5 million. There are several others through organizations such as the National Science Foundation.  Spring semester of 2020 is the first term MSU Denver would be eligible for the large awards if the designation is reached.

Other efforts she highlighted include the creation of the Bienvenidos website; identifying ways to encourage students to complete the FAFSA application – subsequently increasing the number of those Pell-eligible; the work of the Excel program to facilitate applications from predominantly Latino schools; and the cultural competence group’s work to create an inventory of related-trainings, streamline, evaluate and identify opportunities for all faculty and staff.

Additionally, continuing to build relationships – such as a grant secured from the Mexican Consulate by the Excel program to fund scholarships for students of Mexican descent – are supportive efforts underway. 

Besides maintaining the 25 percent mark, HSI designation also requires additional elements:

  • Either 50 percent or more of our degree-seeking students need to be eligible for Title IV funds (including federal Pell grants, work study, supplemental educational opportunity grants and Perkins loans), or the percentage of our undergraduate degree-seeking students enrolled at least half-time and receiving federal Pell grants must be more than the average percentage of similar institutions.
  • The Core Expenses per full-time enrolled student must be lower than the average for our institutional group.

If we don’t meet these additional requirements, we will need to apply for a waiver, Marquez said.

There is also a two-year processing period. Because of a delay in how statistics from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System is processed, fall 2017 enrollment statistics will not be accepted for HSI designation eligibility until December 2019.

Looking ahead, the focus is about shifting to a retention-focused approach so all students can be successful at MSU Denver, Marquez said.

“Becoming an HSI is more than enrolling a critical mass of Hispanic and Latino students,” she said. “It is also about retaining them through strategic efforts of support so that they persist to graduation.

“We’ve done great work to get to the 25 percent requirement – now we need to maintain it.”

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