How can we support Latino student success? Guarantee funding to HSIs.

Excelencia in Education
4 min readJan 6, 2021


by Deborah Santiago and Janette Martinez

Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) disproportionately educate the majority of Latino students across the nation. As policymakers consider how to best support Latino students and HSIs, leveraging current programs and efforts provides an immediate opportunity for action. Title V, the Developing HSIs program, of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is such a program. Every year, the number of HSIs grows and outpaces the amount of funding available. Since Title V is a competitive program (eligible HSIs are not guaranteed funding), receiving funds from this program also grows more competitive every year. To more equitably support Latino student success, via the institutions that educate them, all HSIs should receive guaranteed funding.

In our last post, Excelencia analyzed a proposal for a new institutional grant to support under-resourced institutions that enroll large numbers of Pell-eligible students. In our analysis, we determined that creating a new non-competitive grant program could support Latino students and the institutions that enroll them, such as HSIs. However, if the goal is to build institutions’ capacity to support students, then HSIs would be more equitably supported through guaranteed funding for two reasons: 1) HSIs already have to apply to be designated eligible for Title V, and it’s inequitable to repeatedly ask them to apply for funding, and 2) a guaranteed amount for institutions meeting Title V eligibility can go a long way in helping those institutions build their capacity to improve the quality of education they offer.

What are HSIs and what federal grants are currently available to them?

HSIs are defined in federal law as accredited and degree-granting public or private nonprofit institutions of higher education with 25 percent or more total undergraduate Hispanic full-time equivalent (FTE) student enrollment. If an institution meets the enrollment definition of an HSI, and has a high enrollment of needy students and low core expenses, then an institution is designated eligible to apply for grant funding under Title V.

HSIs first received federal funding 25 years ago. In Fiscal Year (FY) 1995, Congress appropriated $12 million for HSIs, and 37 institutions received funding; in FY 2019, Congress appropriated $124 million and 223 HSIs received funding. Funding for Title V has increased 933%; over the same time period, the number of HSIs has grown 185% (from 189 to 539). Despite the growth in Title V funding, it has not kept pace with the growth in the number of HSIs, making it an increasingly competitive program. Last year, 40% of HSIs received funding, meaning over half of HSIs did not receive funding for which they have been designated eligible. One solution is to add a non-competitive grant for all institutions that are designated Title V eligible.

How would a non-competitive grant be set up?

Congress could set up a new grant that provides funding to all HSIs that are designated eligible for Title V, regardless if they have applied for a Title V grant or not. For example, 10% of funding appropriated to Title V could be set aside to provide a grant to every Title V eligible HSI. Based on FY2019, about $12.9 million would be set aside for non-competitive grants.

To be eligible to compete for Title V funding, HSIs must have a high enrollment of needy students and low core expenses (under-resourced), and not all HSIs have applied to be designated eligible for Title V. Based on these criteria, 436 of 539 HSIs (80%) are designated eligible for Title V. Using our $12.9 million estimate, each designated eligible HSI would receive about $30,000.

Why would guaranteed funding help HSIs?

Every year, the number of HSIs grows and outpaces the amount of funding available. This makes receiving Title V funds even more competitive.

  • Federal funding for HSIs was created as a way to support under-resourced institutions enrolling Latino students with high need. HSIs are predominately public institutions, and previously the majority were two-year institutions. Over time, however, HSIs have become more likely to be public four-year institutions. These HSIs tend to have more resources and are readily able to compete for grants compared to two-year HSIs.
  • To receive a Title V grant, HSIs have to go through a two-step process: after applying to be designated eligible for Title V, they then have to apply for this competitive grant. Because it’s competitive, there’s no guarantee they’ll receive it. It’s inequitable to ask them to then apply for competitive grants for a program for which these institutions have already been deemed eligible.

There’s past precedent in providing funding to every HSI. In response to COVID-19, Congress appropriated funding to every institution of higher education and provided additional funding for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The US Department of Education (ED) appropriated money to every institution meeting Title V eligibility. However, there was some discrepancy between those ED designated eligible and the broader list of HSIs. If guaranteed funding goes out to HSIs regularly, ED would need to maintain an accurate and up-to-date list. An updated list would benefit not just ED but would provide accurate information to the numerous federal agencies that provide federal funding to HSIs, including the Department of Defense and the Department of Agriculture.


Guaranteed funding to designated eligible HSIs would show a meaningful commitment to those institutions enrolling Latino students. As the number of HSIs continues to grow, we must ensure the original intent of the Title V program is met and ultimately supports Latino student success. Supporting Latino students during these times is important. Guaranteeing funding for the institutions enrolling these students provides an opportunity for policymakers to help support Latino student success and help meet the national degree attainment goals to support the country.



Excelencia in Education

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