The 12-year road to earning this unique federal designation
In 2007, then President, Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., launched an HSI initiative designed to increase Hispanic and Latino enrollment to 25 percent of our student body. Back then, Latinos made up 20 percent of Colorado’s population; yet MSU Denver’s student body was only 13 percent Latino. Our focus has always been to educate the students of Colorado, so we made efforts to ensure our student body reflected the people of Colorado. With a starting point of 12.5 percent Hispanic enrollment in 2008, we reached the required 25-percent benchmark for the first time 10 years later, Fall 2018, at 26.4 percent. It wasn’t until February 2019 when we achieved HSI Designation with 5,469 enrolled Hispanic and Latino students, more than any other higher education institution in Colorado.
Our road to becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution was long, but we are grateful for the efforts of others and the things we learned along the way. In 2012, a recommendation came out of the HSI Task Force in response to the reality of a tuition structure that required undocumented students – who had lived in Colorado for most their lives and attended high school in Colorado – to pay out of state tuition. We restructured our tuition requirements to assist these students so they could afford and gain access to higher education. A year later, Colorado lawmakers passed the ASSET bill, providing qualified undocumented students with in-state tuition at all public universities throughout the state. Being the most affordable four-year institution in Colorado, as well as an institution that believes every student deserves an opportunity to be educated, MSU Denver was then and still is a clear choice for all students.
The benefits of our HSI designation are something we are still learning. Designation allows us to be eligible to compete and receive federal funds – multi-million-dollar grants to encourage educational access and degree completion. Additionally, it will help MSU Denver create partnerships and collaborations with businesses and industries. Some have requirements to partner with minority serving institutions. HSI designation also places an importance on the need to retain and graduate our Hispanic/Latinx students and provides an opportunity to create and implement better ways of doing things to retain and graduate ALL our students.