On Jan. 26 the U.S. Department of Education officially designated Texas A&M University-San Antonio a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). The acknowledgment came due to the rapid growth in Hispanic enrollment.
According to the Dept. of Education, the purpose of creating an HSI designation is to help bring academic improvement to Hispanic, lower-income college students while also giving those universities and colleges who serve Hispanic populations better resources to assist students with obtaining their education.
To qualify for HSI status, a university must have at least a 25 percent Hispanic student population.These numbers are gathered by the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS) through the Department of Education.
HSI status means greater access and broader eligibility for grant funding. However, there is much to be said for this recognition —both from a faculty and student body point-of-view.
The most important question to ask is: What does Texas A&M-San Antonio want the HSI designation to mean to the campus?
“It is an important designation because it identifies one of the populations we serve. It is a big part of the picture of who we are,” said Marvin Lutnesky, chair of the Department of Science and Mathematics.
Lutnesky explained it is a huge benefit because there are many grants available that prefer to support HSI Institutions. The grant funding would allow for A&M-San Antonio to look at creating more programs.
For example, Lutnesky said there is much need for an Office of Sponsored Research.
An Office of Sponsored Research assists faculty with the ongoing task of seeking, applying and even negotiating grants and other sponsored research agreements.
Although some resources exist, Texas A&M-San Antonio does not have a dedicated office like other universities.
What this designation means to the student body is a little different, but certainly on the same track of improving programs for the campus.
Cecilia McCardle, founding member of Mexican-American Student Association (MASA), believes the HSI designation is important to address the needs of the university’s Latino population so students can graduate and serve their communities.
Although McCardle is pleased that Latinos are enrolling in larger numbers, her concern is that the graduation numbers are not reflective of those admissions numbers.
“Being designated an HSI, I would really like to see a recognition of the issue of retention and how A&M-San Antonio is going to address that,” McCardle said.
According to numbers provided by the Office of the Provost, there are 3,778 Hispanic students enrolled this Spring. However, from December 2009 to present there have only been 4,946 Hispanic graduates.
McCardle knows first-hand that many first-generation Latino students enroll but then do not have the proper guidance or the resources to continue their education.
Many students have additional outside responsibilities like full-time jobs and caring for children and older family members.
She hopes the HSI designation will provide more awareness of student needs and give them the right programs that will “show full support in enrolling but completing graduation.”
In addition, McCardle hopes the university will use the HSI designation to provide more academic programs like Mexican-American Studies, that are representative of the community and San Antonio as a whole.
Although the campus is still young, administrators and students agree the HSI designation offers up greater possibilities all around. Funding is not available each year, however, there are funding opportunities coming in 2017. The Department of Education recommends both faculty and students be proactive in seeking out grant proposals through their website at www.ed.gov.