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MSU Denver aims for early HSI designation

Thanks to second-wave eligibility-approval process, Hispanic-Serving Institution distinction and related funding opportunities are within reach.

By Lindsey Coulter

September 18, 2018

Latina student at graduationMetropolitan State University of Denver has spent more than a decade in pursuit of Hispanic-Serving Institution status. Although the University serves more Latino students than any other Colorado higher-education institution, it falls just short of one of the three HSI criteria. These few percentage points have kept MSU Denver from competing for federal funding to better address the access, recruitment, transfer, retention and completion needs of an ever-growing Latino student population.

Generally, the HSI designation requires that 50 percent of degree-seeking students be eligible for Title IV funding such as Pell Grants, work study, Student Education Opportunity Grants and Perkins loans — or that the percentage of undergraduate-degree-seeking students who are enrolled at least half-time and receive Pell Grants exceeds the average percentage of similar institutions.

“The benchmark for 2017 was 38 percent Pell-eligible students; MSU Denver was at 35 percent,” said Angela Marquez, Ph.D., special assistant to the president for HSI.

Marquez explained that many students are likely eligible for Title IV funding but may not understand FAFSA and therefore simply don’t apply. This critical information gap has inhibited MSU Denver from proving eligibility, and the HSI Financial Aid task force is working on strategies to reach students who may be eligible.

MSU Denver first hit HSI criterion No. 1 — 25 percent Latino-identifying student enrollment — in fall 2017, when Latino enrollment reached 26.4 percent. As of this fall, that number has risen to 28.4 percent.

The University also meets HSI criterion No. 2, the core expenses (or regular operational expenditures) per full-time-equivalent student requirement, which dictates that the measure must be lower than the average for the institutional group. The one HSI requirement MSU Denver does not meet, however, is based on student need.

Despite hitting the first two criteria, MSU Denver’s enrollment data won’t be recognized by the Department of Education until 2019, thanks to a two-year delay in the recognition of the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) data; however, institutional eligibility requirements have been revised, allowing two chances for review. The second review involves a waiver process offering a potential early gateway to HSI designation.

“This year, we will attempt to apply under a waiver process demonstrating how we meet the needy-student requirement and not wait until 2019,” Marquez said. “We are already working on the data and information needed to complete the waiver. Given that we educate the largest Latino student population in Colorado — our Latino enrollment stands at 5,460 students this fall — I am hopeful we will be approved.”

The waiver process would allow MSU Denver to proceed with its HSI application, despite initial first-wave review of the IPEDS data indicating ineligibility, and position the University to compete for $3.5 million and $2.5 million Title V grants next May. While President Janine Davidson, Ph.D., and senior leadership will ultimately determine the University’s priorities, Marquez stresses that any grant submissions will include multiple perspectives and gather like ideas to maximize impact.

“Within this fall semester, we’ll start an inclusive process — talking to various departments and schools to determine how best to use funds to meet the needs of our students,” Marquez said. “Since we are only allowed one cooperative Title V grant and one individual Title V grant submission, we want to put our most competitive proposals forward.”

More information on this process will be available soon.

Along with these larger, more significant grants, HSI designation also makes MSU Denver eligible for numerous other funding opportunities and could also result in partnerships with companies such as Lockheed Martin, which have requirements to work with minority-serving populations. These opportunities have the potential to affect the entire Roadrunner community.

“The grants don’t just serve Latino students; they serve all students,” Marquez said. “If we improve one system for one population, we’re improving it for others, too.”

Marquez expects to know by March whether MSU Denver’s HSI status has been granted.

Topics: Hispanic Serving Institution

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