Marquette’s initiative to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution

What is “HSI”?

The term “Hispanic-Serving Institution” (HSI) is a federal designation defined by the Higher Education Act. It requires that institutions be 2- or 4-year accredited colleges, enroll a significant portion of low-income students, and have 25% of their full-time undergraduate student body be Hispanic. Once an institution achieves HSI status, they are eligible to apply for federal Title V funds.

There are over 400 HSI-eligible institutions in the U.S., but only nine in the Midwest and none in Wisconsin. And while they comprise only a very small percentage of all institutions of higher education, HSIs enroll almost 2/3 of all Hispanic undergraduates in the country.

HSIs are also extremely diverse. US News and World Report defines diversity as the likelihood that students would encounter other students with racial or ethnic backgrounds unlike their own. Based on their criteria, of the top 1% most diverse colleges and universities in the country for the 2016-17 school year, half of them are HSIs.

Why is the HSI designation important to Marquette?

Serving this population is something that connects to the heart of Marquette’s mission as a Catholic, Jesuit institution. St. Ignatius, the founder of the Jesuits, described schools as a contribution to what he called the "common good" of society at large. In their ministries he wanted the Jesuits to minister to anybody in need, regardless of social status or socioeconomic class.

As a Jesuit university, our location in the city was strategic and central to our mission of serving the traditionally underserved. We have a history of, and commitment to, serving first-generation college students. In fact, educating the children of immigrants was one of the primary reasons that Bishop John Martin Henni founded a Catholic college in the city of Milwaukee. Marquette’s Guiding Values also call us to nurture an inclusive, diverse community.

What benefits come with becoming an HSI and diversifying our campus in other ways?

Diversity on campus makes us better and stronger. It allows us to be innovative and creative. The more ideas and perspectives we can bring to campus, the better poised we are to solve the complex problems of living in a globally interconnected society.

Additionally, employers seek employees who have intercultural and teamwork skills, global knowledge and experience with social responsibility. A 2008 study conducted by the Association for American Colleges and Universities reported that 46% of employers felt that students were not well prepared in the area of global knowledge and only 38% of employers found that students were well prepared in intercultural skills. Marquette students will be better prepared in these essential areas through our increased diversity.

Once we achieve this goal, Marquette will be eligible for Title V federal funds. Although increased federal funding is not the reason we decided to pursue this goal, these funds foster the general development of the university and can be used for a wide range of things to benefit all students, including educational materials, improved facilities, faculty development, tutoring or counseling programs, and other student support services.

Why are we focusing on HSI now?

According to the latest data from the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, the overall number of high school graduates is expected to plateau over the next decade, but the share of those students who are students of color will increase, particularly those with Hispanic heritage. By the 2031-32 school year, the percentage of high school graduates who are Hispanic is expected to reach 24% of all high school grads.

And this trend is no different here in our city. According to a recent report funded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the growth in the Hispanic community is responsible for all of the growth in k-12 school enrollment in the area since the year 2000. And for the 2016-17 school year, Hispanic students already comprise almost 25% of all enrollment in k-12 Catholic schools in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.

How far do we have to go?

For the 2016-17 school year, our undergraduate Hispanic population was 10.6%, and our goal is to increase that percentage to 25% by the 2026-27 school year.

How will Marquette achieve this goal of becoming an HSI?

The university has already made some intentional changes to pave the way for becoming an HSI, including hiring additional Spanish-speakers in the admissions and financial aid offices, and taking a critical look at recruitment practices.

In addition, a steering committee has been convened to explore current practices and determine needs in a variety of areas, including but not limited to community outreach, pre-college programs, recruitment, articulation agreements for transfer students, retention, support services, school climate, curricular offerings, hiring practices, financial support, and alumni engagement.

Do Marquette’s efforts to recruit Hispanic students come at the expense of recruiting students from other backgrounds?

No. Marquette is equally committed to recruiting students from all backgrounds, and has also stated a goal of increasing Black student enrollment by 50% over the next five years. We hope that some of the recruitment strategies we employ for Hispanic students will help us yield more students from other underrepresented groups. Beyond that, an added benefit of achieving the Hispanic Serving Institution designation would give Marquette access to additional federal funding that will benefit all of our students, not just Hispanic students.

Does the university have, or is it considering, quotas for minority students?

No. A “quota” denotes either minimums or limits on the number of students who have a particular racial or ethnic background. Marquette has never embraced this practice nor are we considering it now.

While the university is increasing its efforts to recruit students from diverse backgrounds, any student who applies to Marquette is subject to equal acceptance standards. And while the university does have specific goals related to recruiting students from diverse backgrounds, it also has a goal of increasing its overall enrollment. We want to make it possible for any qualified student to attend Marquette.

HSI Day of Reflection

On October 11th, 2017 Marquette Univesity hosted an HSI Day of Reflection with Guest Speaker Dr. Gina Garcia. For more information about the event please click here.

For more information on this initiative, please contact:
Jacki Black
Associate Director for Hispanic Initiatives