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How HSI reaches for the sky

Our Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) initiative aims to increase Hispanic full-time enrollment to 25 percent by 2018. We asked Esther Rodriguez, who is running the program, for a progress report.

By Mark Cox

February 23, 2017

1. Latino enrollment has been increasing steadily for the past decade. Are you pleased with the pace of progress?

Yes, our enrollment tracks with the Latino growth projections made by the 2007 HSI Task Force and confirmed by the 2015 Task Force. According to MSU Denver’s census data, between Fall 2007 and Fall 2016, Latino student enrollment has grown from 12.5 percent to 24.1 percent. What is encouraging is that Latinos are enrolling here at a slightly higher percentage than the overall Latino population (ages 18-64) within the 10-county Denver metropolitan area. That currently is about 23 percent.

2. Why is it so important for MSU Denver to become a HSI?

The path to individual and community economic success is through higher education and degree attainment. Latinos are one of the fastest growing demographic groups in the country, and the U.S. Census Bureau reports that the Denver metropolitan area is experiencing some of the greatest growth with close to 35 percent of the region’s Latino population under 18 years old. So, MSU Denver has a special opportunity to promote a pathway to economic success for a large and important community, as well as grow the economy of our region.

But achieving the federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution does not only target Latino students; HSI benefits the institution and all students. The designation places MSU Denver into a pool of institutions eligible to apply for federal grants that enhance programs, services and resources. To gain access to these competitive resources, our Latino full-time equivalent enrollment must be at least 25 percent.

3. Last year, the college’s HSI Task Force made 21 recommendations. How are we doing on those?

Taken together, the recommendations of the 2015 HSI Task Force were aimed at developing robust student support systems – both within and outside MSU Denver. Initiatives are underway in five key areas: institutional infrastructure, outreach to pre-K - 12 students, transfer and enrollment, financial aid, and policy development and advocacy. Implementation continues to be a work in progress, but we’re close to achieving several important outcomes. These include the following:

  • A social media presence. We will be promoting #WhyHSI and distributing small cards describing the purpose of the federal HSI designation to departments and offices across campus to promote discussion and support understanding of what it will mean to be a Hispanic-Serving Institution and how HSI designation could strengthen our university
  • A new HSI website will be linked to MSU Denver’s homepage and provide information on the development and status of HSI initiatives. It will be aligned with other diversity initiatives.
  • A searchable database of MSU Denver programs that provide services and resources to K-12 students (e.g., tutors, mentors, campus tours, recruitment events, financial aid support, college readiness, enrichment activities, etc.). This tool will help us more effectively coordinate programs and promote school-university partnerships.
  • Survey and analysis of the needs of part-time students to identify strategies that encourage full-time enrollment.
  • Partnership agreements with districts to create new scholarship programs.

4. What are your plans to make sure more people know about and are engaged with this initiative?

President Jordan charged the HSI Implementation Team to turn the recommendations into action and integrate them across the university. The team is made up of close to 50 ambassadors representing the MSU Denver community – faculty, administrators and students. These campus leaders are spreading the word about HSI expectations and goals within their departments and programs, and finding opportunities to connect strategies to existing and new initiatives. My job is to support the coordination of initiatives, to serve as liaison across working groups, to conduct research and data collection, to identify areas to leverage resources, and be an energetic cheerleader to guide completion.

5. The target is to increase Hispanic FTE enrollment to 25 percent by 2018. Will we get there?

MSU Denver has built a reputation that Latinos are welcome and will be supported on our campus. Data on our recruitment efforts are encouraging and suggest an increase in Latino enrollment for Fall 2017. There is a possibility that we could achieve 25 percent Latino FTE enrollment a year earlier than expected. But, once achieved, Latino enrollments must be sustained. Our greatest challenge and opportunity are the retention of Latino students through degree completion and entry into the workforce.

Find out more about becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution.

Topics: Hispanic Serving Institution

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