President Obama has declared this week, September 12 – September 18, as National Hispanic-serving institutions (HSI) week. In light of this declaration, it is timely to reflect on the importance of this designation to NMSU.
To be recognized as an HSI, a university must have a student body in which at least 25% of the undergraduates are of Hispanic heritage. NMSU has met this requirement since 1989. Currently, 49.7% of NMSU’s students have Hispanic heritage.
The impetus for the HSI designation has a long history that stretches back into the 1960s, but the legislation, which was finally successful in defining an HSI, came from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, and was passed into law in 1992. HACU and other organizations recognized that Hispanic college students were concentrated in a relatively small number of institutions and that these institutions were more poorly financed than other institutions of higher education. In order to improve the quality of the education available to Hispanic students, and to ensure that the vast talent of our Hispanic population is fully developed, HACU argued for special federal appropriations to HSI institutions, an argument that resonated with the federal government and led to a number of special appropriations, including Title III and Title V grants from the Department of Education.
These appropriations and NMSU’s success in developing and implementing programs designed to train students from groups underrepresented in the sciences have not only helped develop the talent of the Hispanic population of New Mexico, they have benefited all the students of NMSU by improving our teaching facilities, our research infrastructure, and our research funding. A very fine talk given by Regents Professor Elba Serrano yesterday documented the importance of our HSI status in providing a funding base for research and teaching programs at NMSU and challenged the audience to consider the responsibilities that accompany this funding.
As the Hispanic population of the United States has grown over the course of the past 24 years, so has the number of HSIs, and an increasing number of very highly research intensive universities, especially in California, are joining the HSI ranks. As they do, more universities will resemble NMSU in terms of demographics, but our faculty and staff will be no less proud of the role they have played, and will continue to play, in educating students of Hispanic heritage.
With all best wishes,