UC Riverside Celebrates National Hispanic-serving Institutions Week

A 2008 designation as a Hispanic-serving Institution has enabled UC Riverside to expand and support educational opportunities for Hispanic students

students at SOBA commencement

Students at the 2011 School of Business Administration commencement ceremony

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Last Friday, President Barack Obama proclaimed Sept. 16 to 22 National Hispanic-serving Institutions Week.

Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSIs) are non-profit, degree-granting institutions with full-time undergraduate students that are at least 25 percent Hispanic.

The University of California, Riverside, was named an HSI in 2008; the first in the UC system to receive the honor. Today it is only one of three premiere research universities in the country with the designation. (The other two are the University of New Mexico and the University of Houston.)

Such a designation means institutions can apply for competitive grants to expand and support educational opportunities for Hispanic and other low-income students. These grants are spent on various projects, such as faculty development and creating new university programs. HSIs represent 9 percent of all non-profit colleges and universities in the country, yet serve 54 percent of all Hispanic students. (There are currently 311 HSIs in the country.)

It is tremendously important at a time when the U.S. Hispanic population is over 50 million and  the number of 18-to-24 year olds attending college is at an all-time high. Obama’s proclamation noted that “Hispanic-serving Institutions have helped bring the dream of a college education within reach for many Hispanic students and their families.”

This is true for UC Riverside, where Hispanic students represent about 27 percent of the undergraduate population. Among UCR undergraduates, nearly 60 percent are the first in their families to receive a college education.  Nationally, Hispanic and low-income students have been underrepresented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics labs and classrooms.

In its four years as an HSI, UC Riverside has made strides toward changing that, through projects such as the UCR STEM Pathway Project.

The STEM Pathway Project was implemented with a $3.3 million federal grant made possible by the College Cost Reduction and Access Act and the HSI program (via the U.S. State Department of Education). It aims to bring more Hispanic and low-income students into science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields, and is especially targeted toward students who transfer from community colleges to UCR. Six community colleges — College of the Desert, Pasadena City College, Mt. San Jacinto College, Riverside City College; and the Moreno Valley and Norco campuses of the Riverside Community College District — are all UCR partners. Combined, they have an enrollment of nearly 36,000 Hispanic students.

The commitment to diversity and Hispanic students is reinforced by Chancellor Timothy P. White, who said, “The Chicano/Latino community is the fastest-growing racial ethnic group in the country, and their success in school will have a huge impact on the ability of this nation to compete in a global marketplace.” He added, “UC Riverside is creating the next generation of Latino scientists, artists and entrepreneurs.”

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E-mail: lille.bose@ucr.edu

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