By Anne Button
For a few years now, there’s been a buzz on campus about achieving Hispanic Serving Institution status, the federal designation accorded to institutions that have at least 25 percent Latino student enrollment. This Week @ Metro takes a look at progress made on the initiative to date.
Enrollment up, especially among Latinos
When President Stephen Jordan appointed the Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Task Force in July 2007 with the explicit goal of determining a recommended path to HSI status, Latinos made up 13 percent of the student body. By fall 2010, Latino enrollment had reached 16 percent.
According to Associate Vice President for Enrollment Services Judi Diaz Bonacquisti, who co-chaired the HSI Task Force along with Deputy Provost Luis Torres, “Not only are we enrolling more students than we have in our entire 45-year history, we have surpassed our record number of Hispanics, and the growth numbers are phenomenal. We are clearly making significant progress toward the College’s goal to become a Hispanic Serving Institution.”
Total Metro State enrollment, now topping 24,000, grew by 1,054 students from fall 2009 to fall 2010, and 735 of those students were Latino (who totaled 3,824 in fall 2010). In other words, a full 70 percent of student enrollment growth from fall 2009 to fall 2010 was in Latinos.
New – and newly reinvigorated – initiatives
Diaz Bonacquisti attributes the Latino enrollment increase to a number of HSI initiatives implemented since the HSI task force issued its 55 final recommendations in February 2008, including targeted outreach, retention initiatives, and the change in the way students can self-identify their race and ethnicity.
HSI co-chair Torres concurs. “The College has really adopted the HSI initiative as a College-wide effort,” he said, “so that we see a lot of departments engaging their own HSI initiatives. Some have even created new classes – for example, the nutrition project.” The project was established by the Human Nutrition and Dietetics Program to improve their majors’ understanding of Latino food traditions and health issues.
Other new undertakings include a Latino-specific student recruitment effort and the Excel Pre-Collegiate Program (added to the existing Excel Outreach Program) that recruits students in five north metro area schools. The HSI Task Force also recommended and supported the addition of master’s programs to the College’s academic offerings.
Torres said the HSI initiative also served to “formalize and coalesce” a number of programs that had already been going on at the College. Independent programs that support the HSI initiative include the College Assistance Migrant Program, a program to prepare more Latinos to become teachers, a Latino-specific marketing conference and this week’s Women in International Trade Conference co-sponsored by the School of Business and the Chamber of the Americas.
Some pre-existing programs, such as Journey Through Our Heritage and the Excel Program, have been newly re-invigorated under HSI. Both of these programs, targeted to high school students, were granted temporary stimulus funding. For current students, the focus has been on retention, particularly in the first year, through the First Year Success Program and partnerships with the Denver Scholarship Foundation and the Latin America Educational Foundation.
Recognition as an emerging HSI
These efforts, among others, have led the College to a key interim step toward its HSI goal: In 2010, Metro State was named one of four model “emerging HSIs” in the country (among 176 emerging HSIs) by the Washington, D.C.-based educational think tank Excelencia in Education, for its successful efforts to effectively serve its Latino students.
Ongoing efforts continue
Diaz Bonacquisti and Torres noted ongoing efforts toward achieving the HSI goal, including the recent Board of Trustees Feb. 3 resolution to support a bill that would call for in-state tuition rates for undocumented immigrants. “To continue the dialogue and hopefully dispel myths concerning immigration, we are collaborating with many entities to present a three-part series this semester,” said Diaz Bonacquisti. The series will include a Feb. 17 lecture by economist Benjamin Powell, who previously debated former Gov. Richard Lamm on the immigration issue on campus; an April 14 discussion on the implications of the DREAM Act for Colorado; and a session at the April 29 Great Teachers for Our City Schools National Summit, sponsored by the Center for Urban Education, titled Building DREAMs: Teaching Immigrant Students in Urban Schools and featuring Colorado First Lady Helen Thorpe and Congressman Jared Polis.
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