Making College Affordable: An Online Guide for Hispanic Students


For the first time in our country’s history, the majority of U.S. high school students headed to college are Hispanic. U.S. Census data shows that while overall college enrollment in Fall 2012 decreased by 467,000 from the previous year, Hispanic enrollment increased by almost the same amount, or 447,000 students. Latinos now represent about 17 percent of all college students, up from 11 percent in 2006. And according to the Pew Hispanic Center, more females than males are earning degrees.

This shift in demographics presents a few unique challenges for students. Finding ways to make college affordable, such as finding scholarships and other educational resources is often a deciding factor in pursuing a degree. From tuition costs and room and board to lab fees and textbook costs, calculating the total cost of college is quite an undertaking for any student, regardless of ethnicity. Here, we address these concerns and guide students to solutions to finding the most affordable college options possible.

While this guide contains information valuable to all current and future college students, it focuses on data and resources specific to Hispanic students looking to further their education. Here you’ll find information on how to make college more affordable, scholarships and educational resources specific to Hispanic students, background on Hispanic college enrollment, and a ranking of the 32 most affordable Hispanic Serving Institutions in the country.

College Affordability for Hispanic Students

Paying for college starts well before classes begin and continues on through graduation fees. The key is to know what the costs are, and where to find assistance in paying for them. Costs associated with college that start well before students’ first class include:


Most four-year colleges require students to submit their SAT scores with their application. At $51 for this test, plus additional fees for individual subject-area tests, these costs can add up. To help with these costs, students may take advantage of fee waivers, based on income, or a recommendation from their high school counselor. Waivers cover the cost of sending score reports to up to four colleges of the students’ choice, after the four free reports that all applicants receive.

Application fees:

Many colleges also charge fees, ranging from $35 to $50 per school, to process student applications. The College Board has a comprehensive list of colleges that do not have application fees or that may waive the fee, upon request, for in-state applicants.

Tuition, room and board, textbooks, and more:

Though these costs can add up, there are many avenues Hispanic students can take to make college more affordable. Grants and work-study programs are just two of the ways that students can lower their out-of-pocket cost of college. College financial aid offices are designed to get students on the right path.

Scholarships for Hispanic Students

Scholarships and grants are an ideal way to help pay for tuition. They are essentially gifted funds based on financial need, cultural background, educational and civic achievements, athletic ability, hobbies, intended major, etc. Funds received do not have to be repaid, although some sources require students to give back to a community or organization as a condition of the scholarship or grant.

There are many opportunities for Hispanic students, but the trick is knowing where to look for the right scholarship or grant. Though high school guidance counselors and college financial aid offices are a good place to start, it helps for students to do research outside as well:

  • has an extensive list of scholarships for Hispanic students, and students can also conduct their own scholarship search based on other criteria.
  • The Hispanic Scholarship Fund awards more than 150 types of scholarships to students, including offering internships and mentors to qualifying participants. Students may search for scholarship by academic level so they can easily find one to meet their specific needs.
  • Fast Web also provides a list of scholarships for Hispanic and Latino students, including funds for both merit and need-based.
  • SHPE Foundation is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping Hispanic students excel in science, technology, engineering, and math, from pre-college through doctorate degrees. Scholarships and internships are just a small part of its comprehensive website.
  • League of United Latin American Citizens offers a variety of scholarships through its LULAC National Scholarship Fund.
  • In addition to providing reviews of both colleges and K-12 schools, Niche also has a college prowler option where students can search for a specific scholarship to meet their needs.
  • The Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities offers scholarships based on specific criteria for students attending a HACU-member college or university.
  • MyCollegeOptions allows students to search for scholarships by ethnicity as well as religion, major, and location. And once students are registered, they can access applications straight from the website.
  • Nerdscholar provides a list of some of the top scholarships for Hispanics. Even better, the site includes an effort meter, so students know up front how much effort it will take to complete the scholarship requirements.
  • MALDEF works to support the civil rights of the Latino community and offers a Law School Scholarship Program for similar-minded students.
  • The Hispanic Scholarship Consortium helps to eliminate barriers to higher education and professional success through collaborations with member organizations, benefactors, professional groups, colleges, and universities. The organization offers several scholarship opportunities.
  • The United States Hispanic Leadership Institute offers a scholarship directory for high school students and counselors and aims to educate both about post-secondary education.

Scholarships and grants can make college a reality for many Hispanic students, but following basic affordability principles will make the experience even better. Finding a college where tuition dollars go the farthest is key, so utilize our list of affordable colleges for Hispanics below.

As you choose a college, location is a key factor to take into consideration. First-year students often adjust better when they can travel home from time to time. Attending a college in another state can make this financially challenging. Keep in mind that online colleges can make a degree more affordable by taking housing and traveling costs out of the equation.

We also have information about lowering your technology costs and the financial benefits of earning an online degree as well as a page dedicated to affordability tips.

More Educational Resources for Hispanic Students

Resources abound for Hispanic students seeking a college degree. College admissions offices can guide students to campus-specific assistance, but other help is available too. Below you’ll find additional resources for the Hispanic student who is looking to make the most of their college experience.

  • Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities National Internship program is “opening the doors of opportunity” for Hispanic students.
  • Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, Inc. provides resources for Hispanic students and their parents, including a college preparatory kit, a middle school checklist, and financial aid and scholarship information. Most information is available in both English and Spanish.
  • The U.S. Department of Education has a specialized tool kit for Hispanic families, designed to help students succeed in school.
  • ASPIRA is a group of organizations that provides educational support and enrichment to Latino youth and their families in schools, community centers, and ASPIRA clubs.
  • Latinos in College is a website dedicated to helping Hispanic students succeed in college and beyond. Overcoming homesickness, being the first generation college student, and tools for parents are just a few of the topics students will find here.
  • New Futuro is a comprehensive website that helps to guide Hispanic students and their families through the college application process.
  • If social media is your thing, College Action Plan has an E-Mentoring group on Facebook. Families will find information about planning for college from middle school through the college application process.
  • Excelencia in Education provides an analysis of Latino students and helps to promote education policies to support them.
  • MyCollegeOptions has a list of resources for all students, whether they’re trying to decide which college to attend, preparing for standardized tests, or looking to save for college.
  • Student Now offers a list of resources for Latino students looking into college, including scholarship information, sorority and fraternity options, as well as general information for Latino students.

A Closer Look at Hispanic Student Enrollment

So why the increase in Hispanic college enrollments? According to Pew Research Center, the answer is simply that, with a growing Hispanic population nationwide, there will naturally be an increase in Latinos attending college. Today, Hispanic voters say education is a top issue and see a college degree as a key to lifelong success.

About 75 percent of the Hispanic population is concentrated in California, Florida, Texas and a few other states, and many want to stay close to home when attending college. In fact, over half of all Latino undergraduate students in higher education are enrolled in just 11 percent of the institutions in the U.S. Many of these degree-granting institutions, those with at least 25 percent Hispanic undergraduate full-time enrollment, are classified by the U.S. Department of Education as Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs).HSIs can be two- or four -year institutions, and many offer online programs.

In the 2011-12 academic year, more than 350 institutions were identified as HSIs. The defining characteristic of HSIs is Hispanic enrollment, not an institutional mission. So it’s important for students to take a look at all the services provided by the school, rather than simply the number of Hispanic students enrolled, says Dr. Shirley Reed, president of South Texas College, whose student population is 96 percent Hispanic.

For one, Hispanic students should research how the college will support them academically, especially if they struggled in high school. Some Hispanic students may feel unprepared for college or have difficulty acclimating to campus life, and some can face cultural pressures from home that conflict with their educational goals.

“Colleges need to make sure they have adequate support mechanisms in place, such as tutoring, mentorship, self-esteem and cultural sensitivity classes,” says Dr. Ronnie Higgs, vice president for student affairs and enrollment services at Cal State Monterey Bay, an HSI with 29 percent Latino enrollment.

Online students also have unique needs. STC, for example, has five physical campuses, and a sixth virtual campus with 6,000 students taking online classes. “These students need support as well,” says Reed. “We see many online students coming to campus to take their classes in the computer lab or the library. They may not have good computers at home, or live in communities with low Internet bandwidth.”

“Universities need to be affordable, welcoming, and sensitive to the cultural needs of Hispanic students, or these students will leave,” continues Reed. “Hispanic students want to be valued, respected, and nurtured. I often get asked, ‘How do you serve Hispanic students?’My answer is that you serve them like any other student. You treat them with respect, have the same expectations, and are optimistic that they will succeed. You need to understand the challenging life circumstances they come from, but they are not very different from any other group with socio-economic challenges.”

Most Affordable Hispanic Serving Institution College Programs: Classroom and Online

Hispanic students searching for a good college fit clearly need to consider many factors. If a school with a large Hispanic population is important to them, then an HSI probably makes sense. But students may want to look beyond percentage of Hispanic students at a college to see what the school offers them in terms of support before and during the college years. And because cost is also a key factor, Affordable Colleges Online has compiled a list of the 32 most affordable HSIs in the United States.

College City State Total Enrolled % Hispanic Tuition & Fees Type
Miami Dade College Miami Florida 99,232 54% $ 3,366 Public
Eastern New Mexico University-Main Campus Portales New Mexico 6,868 26% $ 4,350 Public
University of Houston- Downtown Houston Texas 16,341 34% $ 5,022 Public
The University of Texas – Pan American Edinburg Texas 23,023 88% $ 5,165 Public
The University of Texas of the Permian Basin Odessa Texas 5,170 37% $ 5,250 Public
The University of Texas at Brownsville Brownsville Texas 18,970 86% $ 5,488 Public
Texas A & M International University Laredo Texas 8,287 88% $ 5,714 Public
CUNY John Jay College of Criminal Justice New York New York 18,040 30% $ 5,759 Public
CUNY Lehman College Bronx New York 16,084 37% $ 5,808 Public
California State University – Monterey Bay Seaside California 5,216 29% $ 5,963 Public
South Texas College McAllen Texas 36,951 94% $ 6,045 Public
University of New Mexico – Main Campus Albuquerque New Mexico 33,304 32% $ 6,050 Public
California State University – Dominguez Hills Carson California 15,909 33% $ 6,095 Public
California State University – Los Angeles Los Angeles California 22,830 32% $ 6,101 Public
California State Polytechnic University – Pomona Pomona California 22,770 25% $ 6,125 Public
California State University – Fullerton Fullerton California 39,521 26% $ 6,195 Public
California State University – Fresno Fresno California 22,285 31% $ 6,228 Public
California State University – San Bernadino San Bernadino California 19,065 33% $ 6,327 Public
Florida International University Miami Florida 56,288 57% $ 6,417 Public
New Mexico State University Las Cruces New Mexico 21,692 39% $ 6,513 Public
California State University – Stanislaus Turlock California 9,411 27% $ 6,582 Public
California State University-Bakersfield Bakersfield California 9,456 34% $ 6,709 Public
Texas A & M University – Kingsville Kingsville Texas 11,927 52% $ 6,940 Public
Texas A & M University – Corpus Christi Corpus Christi Texas 11,785 36% $ 7,084 Public
The University of Texas at El Paso El Paso Texas 26,232 72% $ 7,214 Public
The University of Texas at San Antonio San Antonio Texas 35,098 43% $ 7,389 Public
New Jersey City University Jersey City New Jersey 10,605 26% $ 10,422 Public
University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio Texas 9,153 53% $ 23,690 Private Not-for-Profit
Saint Thomas University Miami Gardens Florida 5,000 38% $ 25,110 Private Not-for-Profit
Fresno Pacific University Fresno California 5,027 33% $ 25,336 Private Not-for-Profit
St. Edward’s University Austin Texas 6,109 27% $ 31,110 Private Not-for-Profit
University of La Verne La Verne California 10,304 $ 33,350 Private Not-for- Profit

expert source

Margarita Barresi

Margarita Barresi was born and raised in Puerto Rico and studied at Boston University, where she was fortunate to be awarded financial aid. She writes frequently about higher education and financial aid topics, and has one daughter in college and another on the way.