The University of Arizona has earned the designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution from the U.S. Department of Education for its success in the enrollment of Hispanic students and in providing educational opportunities to them. The HSI designation opens new opportunities to boost supplemental grants and student support services, as well as additional benefits to the UA for research collaborations and partnerships.

The UA joins 105 four-year public institutions and only a few from Research I and the Association of American Universities that meet the criteria for eligibility for HSI designation, according to the most recent data from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The UA is the first of Arizona’s three state universities to be so designated.

“We have been working toward earning this eligibility because of the direct impact it will have on Hispanic students from Arizona and the region,” said UA President Robert C. Robbins. “This select designation ensures that we are creating an environment that promotes student success.”

Marla Franco, UA director of Student Affairs assessment and research, led the effort beginning in the 2015 academic year to move the UA from an Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution to full eligibility. Franco submitted the application and supporting documentation in March 2018 and was notified of approval this week.

The annual designation is defined by the Higher Education Act as an institution of higher education with an undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. The UA main campus met this criteria in fall 2016 based on Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, or IPEDS, data. The designation also requires that criteria be met pertaining to the enrollment of low-income students and university cost per student.

The UA reported a first-to-second-year retention rate among Hispanic students of 82.8 percent compared to the overall average retention rate of 83.3 percent. Additionally, enrollment of undergraduate Hispanic students increased by 3.7 percent between 2013 and 2015. Support of enrollment and retention efforts among Hispanic students will be coupled with enhanced strategies for serving this population.

“This national recognition assists in providing new resources to our diverse population of students as we prepare them for graduation and the workforce,” said Melissa Vito, UA senior vice president for Student Affairs, Enrollment and Strategic Initiatives.

Such resources could benefit the UA through HSI grant-supported endeavors that expand institutional capacity for serving an increasingly diverse student population.  Increased opportunities for federal support could result in boosts to student financial aid, student support programs, faculty development, and new curricular innovations and research endeavors. 

“HSI designation has important benefits to the UA’s research mission as well,” said Kimberly Andrews Espy, senior vice president for research. “Many federal agencies have specific funding opportunities oriented toward broadening participation in research and STEM education targeted to institutions who are designated as minority serving. Being a top research university with the HSI designation puts us in a lead position and preferred partner in these nationwide efforts.” 

The DOE eligibility provides improved access to the Federal Work Study Program, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Program, and also the TRIO Student Support Services Program and the Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Program authorized under the Higher Education Act. Federal agencies such as the National Science Foundation, U.S. Department of Agriculture and more have specific programs limited to, or requiring partnering with, HSI-designated institutions.

UA South in Sierra Vista, Arizona, first earned the Hispanic-Serving Institution designation in 2002 and has maintained its eligibility since then.