Number of Hispanic Serving Institutions falls as pandemic cuts Latino enrollment

Published By
NBC News
Published On
March 24, 2022

The number of colleges and universities that are Hispanic Serving Institutions fell as Latino enrollment declined during the pandemic, according to new data from Excelencia in Education, a Latino higher education research and advocacy group.

Universities and colleges qualifying as Hispanic Serving Institutions, or HSIs, dropped from 569 in 2020-21 to 559 in 2021-22 , according to the data provided first to NBC News. This is the largest decline in HSIs since 1996-97.

HSIs are accredited public colleges and universities or private not-for-profit degree-granting institutions with 25 percent or more full-time undergraduate students who are Hispanic.

More than 10 institutions that were HSIs lost that designation but some schools also joined the list during the same period of time, making it a net loss of 10.

Deborah Santiago, founder and CEO of Excelencia in Education and creator of the HSI list, said the decrease in HSIs is the result of a drop in Latino enrollment, closures of HSIs and some consolidations of institutions in Arizona and Dallas.

“Our community was disproportionately affected by the pandemic, and I think these numbers bear that out,” she said.

Excelencia in Education announced its annual list of HSIs on Thursday.

The University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and St. Joseph's College-New York were among the schools where Latino enrollment dropped.

Reaching the threshold of at least 25 percent Latino enrollment and meeting criteria on lower-income student enrollments allow institutions to apply for Department of Education funds designated for HSIs.

The decline in Latino college enrollment is worse than the HSI numbers show because the population of college-age Latinos grows annually by hundreds of thousands, Santiago said. Latinos led the nation’s growth over the last decade, accounting for more than half of the U.S. population’s increase.

From the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2021, there was a 6.9 percent drop in Latino undergraduate enrollment, according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.

The drop was 0.2 percent at public four-year universities in that period, but at public two-year colleges, where a large share of Latinos enroll, the numbers fell 15.7 percent, according to the clearinghouse.

Santiago said Latino enrollment drops continue in 2022.

That contrasts with recent years, during which Latinos had been increasing their enrollment in higher education. It had been a hopeful sign for closing education gaps.

“Because Hispanics have been projected to be the primary growth population in higher education through about 2030, to see this precipitous drop in Latino enrollment in one year really creates an urgency for us to revisit our focus on access and retention of students,” Santiago said.

HSIs are 18 percent of colleges and universities and enroll 66 percent of the nation's Latino undergraduates, according to Excelencia in Education.

The coronavirus disproportionately sickened, hospitalized and killed Latinos.