Broader definitions needed for Hispanic Serving Institutions

February 22, 2019

How do we know if a college or university is a Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI?

It’s hard to tell, says new research from Michigan State University’s Patricia Marin—unless we ask different questions.

Patricia Marin

Though the HSI designation is officially based on enrollment, the extent to which institutions actually serve Latino/a (or Latinx) students is a measure of many other factors, Marin explained.

“Now that a wider range of institutions are becoming HSIs, we need to expand the definition to better capture what it means to be an HSI,” said Marin, whose research on one emerging Hispanic-Serving Research Institution was published in the Journal of Hispanic Higher Education.

In the study, Marin interviewed 13 senior administrators to explore how they understand the institution’s development and identity as it approached HSI status, or 25 percent of its students being Latinx.

Responses from leaders at the HSRI showed their belief that rising Latinx enrollment grew out of the institution’s geographic location and longstanding values for embracing diverse student groups, the president’s leadership on better serving Hispanic students and a host of other practices that encourage faculty and staff to reach out to Hispanic communities and embrace their needs.

Marin is an assistant professor in the Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education (HALE) program at MSU. She coined the term Hispanic-Serving Research Institution, with Priscilla Pereschica, in earlier research to reflect the growing number and types of institutions serving Latinx students.

“We must continue to expand the existing HSI narrative to acknowledge the range of what these institutions do and how they serve their students,” she said.

Read the paper, “Is “Business as Usual” Enough to Be Hispanic-Serving? Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Research Institution“.