California State University, Long Beach
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Campus Continues HSI Efforts

Published: September 15, 2015

When CSULB’s Latino enrollment ticked past the 25 percent mark in the early 2000s, it earned a special federal designation for the campus as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), a distinction that continues to transform the university.

Hispanic-Serving Institutions evolved in the 1980s to increase the number and percentage of underrepresented Latino students who were enrolled in colleges and universities and to improve the number and rate of Latino students who graduate, explained Simon Kim, associate vice president of the Office of Research and Sponsored Programs. The title, Hispanic-Serving Institution, indicates an institution has at least 25 percent Hispanic full-time equivalent enrollment with at least 50 percent Hispanic students qualifying as low-income.

CSULB first became designated as a HSI university in 2005 when 8,663 Latino students enrolled at the campus, representing 25.1 percent of undergraduate and graduate students, said Jose Moreno, chair of Chicano and Latino Studies. CSULB was one of 33 U.S. colleges and universities to receive the designation and was the only four-year institution in California to receive the Title V grant to address the educational and professional obstacles experienced by Latino students.

The first HSI grant, titled “Mi Casa: Mi Universidad,” was obtained in 2006, Moreno added. The five-year developmental grant aimed to integrate Latino students and their families into the university environment by addressing their educational needs through outreach, support and cultural relevancy.

Gauging the program’s success can be difficult, said Kim, who prepared the program’s original grant evaluation report.

“When I looked at the enrollment numbers for Latino students at CSULB, they had risen from 8,863 in 2006 when the grant was funded to 10,820 in 2011. Currently, that number is 13,270. The Latino student population has gone up tremendously,” he said.

The university also looks at the HSI’s commitment to student success.

“We looked at six-year graduation rates for freshmen,” said Kim. “In the fall of 2003, 46.3 percent of the Latino students completed their degrees in six years. Compare that to the university average of 53.5 percent. There is a gap of 7.2 percent. In 2008, the Latino graduation rate was 58.4 percent while the university rate was 64.9 percent. If you look at the trend, there is a steady increase in graduation rates for all students. However, the gap remains more or less the same.”

The actual graduation rate of Latinos among all students on campus has increased, Moreno observed.

“Now the rate is 58 percent for Latino students. Over an eight-year period, we saw a 12 percent improvement in Latino graduate rates,” he said. “At the same time, a gap exists between Latino graduation rates and the rest of the campus. Of particular concern is that the gap among Latino and their white counterparts has actually increased during this period to over 14 percent.”

Moreno pointed out that within a year of the first grant, the Center for Community Engagement also got an HSI grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create educational opportunities in various housing developments.

”One reason our campus received that grant was because we were designated as an H-S-I campus,” he said. “Then our campus secured the HSI STEM grant which brought nearly $4 million to support Latino student success in the STEM fields.

“At the time, anywhere between 25 and 30 percent of Latino students entering a STEM discipline, particularly engineering and natural sciences, struggled to graduate within six years,” Moreno added. “We turned to peer mentoring within the STEM context and developed a course on Latino leadership in science. There was work to help Latinos to experience undergraduate research at the university level working in faculty labs. Then there was community outreach and education.”

Part of the culture shock for incoming Latino students is CSULB’s diversity, Moreno said.

“Many of these students come from highly segregated high schools,” he explained. “While we celebrate our diversity at CSULB, a racially diverse environment is not one with which Latinos are familiar. There is a Latino graduation every year packed by 5,000 guests. When I ask parents there when was the last time they were on campus, some say the graduation was their first time and others say when they dropped off their students. All of the HSI programs include the component of integrating family activities. The goal is to make parents and families glad to be here—and welcomed.”

Moreno encourages faculty and students to become more involved in the program.

“Ask about it,” he said. “What the program is really about is creating a culturally democratic institution. There should not be one single ethno-cultural norm on campus. The classroom also has American Indian, Asian-American and African-American contexts among others. However we must recognize that the culture of our campus impacts students differentially in ways that may impact their academic integration and success. I hope those who are interested will explore what these programs try to do. Rather than fear them, they should join in.”

HSI’s success has created its own kind of climate change on campus.

“Whichever minority serving institution designation we’re talking about, whether it is Latino, Asian-American/Pacific Islander or African-American, it has a definite and positive impact on campus culture,” said Kim. “But that impact is not limited just to that one population. What is good for the first-generation, low-income Hispanic or Asian-American population is good for everyone. It helps the entire campus community.”