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Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution

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.


In 2007, MSU Denver launched its HSI Initiative and convened a task force to identify strategies to

  1. increase Hispanic FTE enrollment to 25 percent by 2018
  2. support Hispanic students’ educational success through degree attainment

Over the past nine years, Hispanic FTE enrollment has risen steadily, from a starting point of 12.5 percent to 20.3 percent as of fall 2015. But reaching the 25 percent mark over the next three years still stood a real challenge, one former MSU Denver President Stephen Jordan was devoted to take on. In June 2015, Dr. Jordan instituted a new HSI Task Force to take the University “over the finish line.” The new task force was charged with studying the existing landscape, identifying MSU Denver programs and services that support currently enrolled Hispanic students, and recommending specific strategies and investments to increase Hispanic FTE enrollment to 25 percent by 2018.

The task force began by forming three working groups, one focused on the preK-12 pipeline, including recent high school graduates; a second focused on transfers from community colleges, adult students, and military veterans; and the third focused on retention of current students.

The resulting report, Connecting the Dots, reviewed the findings of the working groups and concluded with a set of recommended strategies, investments, and policies – 21 in all – aimed at meeting the federal requirements for HSI designation by Fall 2018. The recommendations are grouped into five categories:

  • Institutional infrastructure
  • Outreach to PreK-12 schools
  • Transfer and enrollment policies
  • Financial aid
  • Advocacy and policy development


“We Are HSI” is an interactive art exhibit that represents MSU Denver’s multifaceted diversity.

(Created in conjunction with the Community Based Art Designed Class)

The work continues.

One year after convening the 2015 HSI Task Force, a team made up of a cross-section of the university is implementing the recommendations. HSI updates will be posted on this website.

If you have questions or need more information about MSU Denver’s HSI Initiative

Office Contact

Manuel Del Real, Ph.D.

Executive Director of HSI Initiatives and Inclusion

Office Staff

Campus Location:

Jordan Student Success Building (JSSB) 440
890 Auraria Parkway
Denver, CO 80204

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 173362
Campus Box 1
Denver, CO 80217-3362