(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Feb. 19, 2016) The U.S. Department of Education has designated California Lutheran University a Hispanic-serving institution, which makes it eligible for grants to benefit its growing Latino population and other students.
The designation requires that Latinos make up at least 25 percent of full-time undergraduate students, a benchmark Cal Lutheran first reached in the 2013-2014 year. Latinos currently make up 27 percent of Cal Lutheran undergraduates.
The number of Hispanic-serving institutions is growing, but Latino student enrollment is still concentrated in a small number of colleges. Thirteen percent of the country’s colleges currently hold the designation. Most of the 435 institutions are public colleges. Less than one-third are private nonprofit colleges like Cal Lutheran. They are split about equally between two- and four-year institutions.
The university is now eligible to apply for grants to increase services that will support academic achievement for Latinos as well as other students. The designation also reduces the university’s costs related to work-study and other programs serving needy and low-income students.
Cal Lutheran plans to apply for a grant for a program it is developing to provide additional support for students majoring in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Latino students make up 28 percent of Cal Lutheran’s STEM students, but those who start out in these majors as freshman are less likely to graduate in the majors than other students. To address this, Cal Lutheran plans to add two faculty members in fall to coordinate a program that will provide mentoring, advising, personal development and additional experiential learning opportunities such as faculty-mentored research for all STEM students. Studies show that faculty mentors are particularly important in retaining minority students.
The university’s Latino population has grown substantially since 2006, when Latinos made up 14 percent of undergraduates. The growing Latino enrollment is partly a result of the changing makeup of the surrounding area. It also reflects Cal Lutheran’s increased efforts to recruit and admit Latinos and other underrepresented students, including prospective first-generation college students, as part of its commitment to diversity. The university has increased the retention and graduation rates of Latino students over the last decade by providing additional support and resources for underrepresented students.
The percentage of Latino students at Cal Lutheran is expected to reach 40 percent by about 2020. The new programs will help prepare for the changing demographics.
The Hispanic-serving institution classification was developed to provide additional resources to the small number of colleges with a large percentage of Latino students.