Beyond an HSI Designation: Exploring Strategic Practices for HSI Grant Participation Cover Image

Beyond an HSI Designation: Exploring Strategic Practices for HSI Grant Participation

Excelencia in Education
March 2023


Since 1995, the federal government has allocated funds to Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) to help build their institutional capacity to better serve their Latino students. However, these federal grant programs have become increasingly competitive. As a result, HSIs must strategically adapt their practices to plan effectively for grant competitions and utilize funds in a sustainable manner that supplements existing institutional practices that facilitate Latino student success.

Excelencia in Education engaged six HSIs that had received federal funding in the last six years (2017-2022) in a series of interviews to learn more about their strategic practices in HSI STEM and Title V grant participation:

  • California State University-Long Beach
  • California State University-Sacramento
  • University of New Mexico-Taos
  • Texas A&M University-Kingsville
  • Dominican University
  • Hartnell College


From the interviews with these institutions, Excelencia identified key strategies that demonstrate these HSIs’ adaptive practices for HSI STEM and Title V grant participation and their institutional commitment to their Latino students:

  • Creating the capacity to apply for HSI grants. Leadership at these six institutions described their strategies for applying for federally funding despite a limited or nonexistent central office or personnel dedicated to HSI initiatives. Their efforts for preparing for grant competitions included (1) holding internal mini-grant competitions, (2) contracting with external grant writers, or (3) bringing in cross-campus support to prepare their grant applications.
  • Implementing and sustaining grant-funded programs. HSI grants are one of many tools that can be leveraged to develop an institution’s capacity to better serve their students. HSI grants are designed to supplement rather than supplant current institutional efforts, which means that institutions must utilize this funding in combination with existing resources. To gain buy-in from the necessary programs or offices, these institutions integrated key stakeholders into the grant application and implementation process. Institutions also slowly transitioned grant funded costs into the budget of campus programs and offices to ensure that the programs and positions could be sustained at the end of the grant period.
  • Conceptualizing and advancing an organizational commitment to serving Latino students. Leadership across all six HSIs described how their institution is conceptualizing what it means to be an HSI, where they currently are with their work, and what they need to do to better serve their Latino students. These HSIs are: (1) utilizing evidence-based practices from external HSI organizations to identify their next steps to advance their institutional capacity to serve, (2) leveraging HSI funding to improve their capacity to implement and sustain student-centered efforts and outcomes, and (3) creating a cross-campus network of offices and departments committed to developing practices that intentionally serve their Latino students.


Suggested Citation:Arroyo, C. & Santiago, D. (March 2023). Beyond an HSI Designation: Exploring Strategic Practices for HSI Grant Participation. Washington, D.C.: Excelencia in Education.


Icon- Seal of Excelencia Summary

Read our report on the impact of 20 years of federal funding on student success and the development of HSIs in From Capacity to Success: HSIs, Title V, and Latino Students. 


Icon- Seal of Excelencia Summary

Read our Medium posts on the potential of a guaranteed federal grant programs for HSIs to build their capacity for applying to competitive federal grant programs.



Latinos in Higher Education - 2024 Compilation of Fast Facts - web pop-up banner with "Learn More" button.