Marybeth GasmanAug 16, 2021,09:13am EDT
Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) are the fastest growing higher education sector in the United States. Since 2013, HSIs have grown on average by 29 institutions each year. According to the latest federal data, there are 569 HSIs, and these institutions enroll two-thirds of all Latinx undergraduates. For those unfamiliar with HSIs, they are defined by the Higher Education Act as colleges and universities with at least 25% Hispanic students. The majority of HSIs are located in California, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, New York, Texas, and Puerto Rico. Given the rapid growth of the Latinx population overall, we will see more and more HSIs in the future.
As HSIs become more prominent on the higher education landscape, questions about their contributions to students and to society continue to surface. Whereas there is ample research about HSIs as a whole, there is less focus on the variability among HSIs, and on research that gives people a window into data on individual institutions. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Schools (HACU), anticipating increases in questions, has launched an HSI Data Dashboard. The Dashboard draws on data from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, a database of self-reported information from the nation’s colleges and universities.
Map detailing location of Hispanic Serving Institutions in the United States.
Map detailing location of Hispanic Serving Institutions in the United States. HACU, 2021
According to Rebecca Perdomo, Director of the Office of Policy Analysis and Information at HACU, the Dashboard has several purposes, depending on the audience. She shared, for example, “The Dashboard can help a student looking for a 4-year, public HSI within their state, if they are seeking to attend a more racially and ethnically diverse institution.” She also noted that “a state representative who aims to learn more about the overall landscape of HSIs in their state can use [the Dashboard].” And added, “Often, policymakers find themselves surprised to learn just how many Hispanic students are on their state’s campuses.” Perdomo also suggests that the Dashboard can be helpful to HSIs as it can assist institutions in building a network of collaborators, as they seek to partner and engage in research projects. From the perspective of Gina Garcia, author of Becoming Hispanic-Serving Institutions and a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, “The Dashboard is a great data tool to help us understand the overall context of the HSIs we are working with. We must understand the state and regional context to fully understand an institution, regardless of the questions we are exploring.”
Within the Dashboard, there are considerable data detailing the inequities within higher education overall, including data related to the differential outcomes that Latinx students experience in comparison to other racial and ethnic groups. From Perdomo’s perspective, “To address these differential outcomes, we must be able to identify the institutions serving the bulk of these students,” and the data that correspond to them. According to Andrés Castro Samayoa, a faculty member at Boston College who regularly engages data pertaining to HSIs, “The Dashboard makes it clear that investing in developing institutions like HSIs alongside enhancing postsecondary education’s affordability are overdue priorities for Congress.”
Further Evidence That Common Core Did Real Harm To U.S. EducationGiven the current national discussion about faculty diversity, one of the most interesting comparisons to make using the Dashboard is between student and faculty demographics at HSIs. Research tells us that there is a significant gain for students of color when they have exposure to faculty of a similar race, ethnicity and cultural background. With that fact in mind, while 47% of HSI students are Latinx at the undergraduate level, just 16% of faculty at HSIs are Latinx. At least half of the faculty are White, non-Latinx. These data show that although change is taking place rapidly at the student level, HSIs — the majority of which were once Predominantly White Institutions — are slow to diversify the faculty.
Having better access to clear and usable institutional data is essential for HSIs as they continue to serve the growing Latinx student population. According to Perdomo, “Institutional decision-makers looking to understand disparities may use the Dashboard to learn more about the landscape [at their institution and] in their state, comparing it to others with similar landscapes.” Comparisons to other HSIs — those boasting similar missions, but with stronger student success related performance results — can serve as motivation to leaders who aim to create better learning environments for their students.
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Marybeth GasmanFollowI am the Samuel DeWitt Proctor Endowed Chair in Education and a Distinguished Professor in the Graduate School of Education at Rutgers University. I’ve written or edited 29 books, including Making Black Scientists (Harvard University Press, 2019 with Thai Nguyen), Educating a Diverse Nation (Harvard University Press, 2015 with Clif Conrad) and Envisioning Black Colleges (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007). My newest book is Doing the Right Thing: How Colleges and Universities Can Undo Systemic Racism in Faculty Hiring (Princeton University Press, 2022).