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Latino College Attendance Hit Record Numbers, But Schools with Large Hispanic Populations Still Low

First Posted: Feb 03, 2016 01:11 PM EST

Photo : Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Latino college enrollment is at an all-time high, but a new study finds that institutions receiving these students are often public and limited to a small number of states.

Excelencia in Education released their annual list of colleges and universities deemed Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), those with a student body at least 25 percent Latino. Of over 4,000 public and private schools in U.S. territories, only 13 percent identified as HSIs. Almost 70 percent are public, and more than two-thirds can be found in California, Texas and Puerto Rico.

"HSIs enroll about 1.75 million Latino students; this is an increase of over 350 percent since HSIs were recognized in federal law," Deborah Santiago, the non-profit organization's chief operating officer and vice president, said in a press statement. "With 62 percent of Latinos enrolled in HSIs, the role of these institutions in retaining and graduating Latinos to meet our national needs for an educated workforce and citizenry is critical."

Excelencia in Education tracked Latino graduation rates since 2004, 12 years after Congress first allocated funds to HSIs as part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. While lawmakers reauthorize the act every five years, it wasn't until 1992 that minority advocacy groups like the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities successfully championed for provisions.

Schools identifying as HSIs have gradually risen in that time to encompass 18 states and 435 institutions. An additional 310 colleges in 33 states are considered Emerging HSIs, or those with a full-time Hispanic student population between 15 and 24 percent. Just two years ago, this number stood at 296 across 29 states.

"Accelerating Latino student success requires better understanding the institutions where students are choosing to enroll," said Excelencia in Education President Sarita Brown, adding that their report is part of an unprecedented body of data on HSIs as they continue to analyze with institutional practices, policies and leadership "that serve students' academic aspirations and increase degree completion."

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