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Explore some of the most frequently asked questions related to UNC pursuing an HSI designation. 

  • What is a Hispanic Serving Institution?

    Hispanic Serving Institutions, also known as HSIs, are defined in federal law as accredited and degree-granting public or private institutions with a full-time enrollment of Hispanic, Latino, or latine students equivalent to 25% of the undergraduate student population. 

    When an institution receives HSI designation, it becomes eligible for additional federal funds in the form of competitive grants. Those grants fund projects directed toward expanding educational opportunities for and improving the attainment of latine students. 

  • What is an Emerging HSI?

    An emerging HSI is defined as an institution with a full-time undergraduate enrollment of 15-24% Hispanic and Latino/x students 

  • How many HSIs are there?

    According to 2019-20 data from Excelencia in Education, there are 569 HSIs in 30 different states (including Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico). There are 12 HSIs in Colorado.  

      • There has been a 94% increase in HSIs over the past 10 years — 293 in 2010, compared to 569 in 2020. 
  • What are the benefits of HSI designation?

    The HSI designation allows UNC to apply for federal grant funding to assist in strengthening institutional programs, facilities, and services to expand the educational resources and opportunities for latine studentsother minoritized populations and the overall university community.

  • Why is UNC seeking an HSI designation now?

    The demographics of college-age students continue to change, with greater diversity and representation, especially among Hispanic, Latino, or latine students. 

    • Trending back to the 2016-17 school year, just under one-third (30% – 31%) of Colorado's high school graduates have been Hispanic/latine. (CDE - Graduates and Completers by School, Gender and Race/Ethnicity (XLS))
    • In a recent report, 60% of the Greeley-Evans School District students identify as Hispanic.
    • In the fall of 2020, 23.4% of UNC's undergraduate population identify as latine/Hispanic, the majority of whom are Colorado residents  

    Degree attainment for Hispanic/latine students is lower compared to White, non-Latino students across the nation, in Colorado and at UNC. As an institution committed to being a Students First university focused on student success, we must increase our retention and degree attainment rates among all students, particularly for students with equity gaps. 

    • On a national level, 46% of White, non-Latino adults hold a college degree, compared to just 24% of Hispanic/latine adults.
    • In Colorado, 64% of White, non-Latino adults hold a college degree or certificate, compared to 29% of Hispanic/latine adults.
    • UNC's four-year graduation rate for the 2016-2020 cohort was 42% for White, non-Latino students, compared to 27% for Hispanic/latine students.
    • UNC's fall 2019 retention rate among first-time, full-time first-year students was 73% for White, non-Latino students, compared to 64% for Hispanic/latine students. 

     The diversity within our university and state is a distinct advantage that we celebrate and nurture. Our efforts to become an HSI align with our five key vision elements in our strategic plan, "Rowing, Not Drifting 2030," to Empower Inclusivity, and it's one of the first key actions that will ensure we are better prepared to serve current and emerging students. 

  • What will an HSI designation mean for UNC students?

    Research shows that enhanced engagement leads to a student's sense of belonging and contributes to improved academic success and higher retention and graduation rates. By working to secure this designation, UNC will establish structures and practices that enhance and expand the opportunities for latine students that also enrich the experiences of everyone at the university.  

    In helping more of our students complete and earn a UNC degree, including an increased percentage of our latine students, UNC can continue our long tradition of preparing and graduating leaders who serve and enrich Colorado's culture and economy. And we know that doing so will positively change their lives and the future of our state. 

    • Thousands of former UNC students are employed in Larimer and Weld Counties. As a result of their UNC education, the students receive higher earnings and increase the productivity of the businesses that employ them. 
    • In FY 2017-18, UNC alumni generated $185.5 million in added income for the regional economy, equivalent to supporting 3,454 jobs. 
  • How will UNC achieve the designation beyond the enrollment benchmark?

    The entire campus must work collectively and collaboratively. The university should expect to see an environment that is inclusive and a climate that represents a sense of belonging, respect and value; curriculum and pedagogy that is culturally responsive, and overall university policies and practices that are student focused.

  • Do HSIs have an economic impact?

    HSIs constitute a significant contributor to the economic prosperity of the nation's engines of economic mobility. For example, of the top 10 colleges and universities ranked by the Social Mobility Index (SMI), nine were HSIs. 

  • When is UNC going to become an HSI?

    UNC began Phase 1: Exploration in the fall of 2020. During that time, a series of campus conversations were held with faculty, staff, students and alumni, to learn more about our strengths and suggested areas of improvement. After those discussions, follow-up meetings were held, and the Board of Trustees approved the university's five-year plan to become an HSI by 2025. 

    UNC is currently in Phase 2: Discovery, of its five-year plan to become an HSI. During this phase, our task force is working on drafting goals and pre-implementation strategies using data collected in the first Exploration phase. We are also introducing HSI to our university community through coordinated communications and facilitated presentations and workshops. We will roll out a campus-wide Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion readiness exercise and inventory in early Spring. 

  • Why should we focus on just the Hispanic/latine-identifying population?

    A study from 2000 by researcher Lisa Wolf-Wendel states, "differences in race, ethnicity, social class, and other experiences influence what students need from their campuses and how campuses should respond." Because we have such disparaging gaps in the success of students, we should create strategies to create more robust outcomes. For UNC, the population as a whole is essential, but the largest gap for access, degree attainment and retention is our latine population.

  • What about other (non-latine) underrepresented minority students? When an institution seeks or obtains an HSI designation, how does it affect them?

    HSIs enroll not only the majority of latine undergraduates in this country but also significant numbers of other historically marginalized groups: 22% of all African American students enrolled in postsecondary institutions in 2017-18 attended HSIs, along with 40% of all Asian American, 29% of all Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 20% of all Native American students.


"I come from a family that came here to work to be better... So, that idea of, 'You're not done yet when you get out of high school, you've got to pursue, you've got to dream, you've got to achieve.' UNC provided me with a huge pallet of things to find myself within..."

— Armando Silva '10, Visual Artist