Hispanic-Serving InstitutionsHistory, Resources & a Look at Top HSI Colleges

The Hispanic population is one of the largest and fastest growing non-white population groups in the United States, according to Pew Research. And over the past several decades, the high school dropout rate of Hispanic students has been steadily dropping, and the rate of college enrollment has increased. To better serve these students, many post-secondary institutions have become Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs. This designation allows them to receive federal funding to better assist Hispanic college students. We’ll take a broad look at HSIs, including their significance and importance in delivering a college education to Hispanic students.

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HSIs at a Glance

In 1996, approximately 35 percent of Hispanic high school graduates were enrolled in college. In 2016, this number rose to 47 percent.

HSIs make up around 13 percent of post-secondary institutions in the United States but educate roughly two-thirds of all Hispanic college students.

HSIs and schools that are close to becoming HSIs are present in 37 states.

Most HSIs can be found in states with high Hispanic populations (and high populations overall), such as Texas, Florida, New York and California.

Two-thirds of all HSIs are public institutions.

Most HSIs are small colleges, with student populations of less than 2,000 full-time students.

HSIs receive significant federal funding, with over $120 million appropriated for HSI undergraduate programs in 2018.

Sources: Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities, Pew Research

Understanding Hispanic-Serving Institutions

Hispanic-Serving Institutions are colleges and universities that enroll a significant number of low-income students and who also have a large Hispanic student population. The precise definition of an HSI will depend on the context and purpose of the designation.

For example, to become a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), 25 percent of a school’s total enrollment must consist of Hispanic students. This total enrollment includes all students, at both graduate and undergraduate levels and those who attend school full-time or part-time.

In other words, an HSI is a college or university that meets the eligibility requirements of Title III of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (Title III provides federal funding to post-secondary institutions to help low-income and minority students) but also has a large number of Hispanic students (at least 25 percent of the full-time equivalent population).

But an HSI is much more than a racially and ethnically diverse student population. One quite notable difference is that HSIs excel in graduation rates. To put it in perspective, more than 74 percent of full-time students at four-year HSIs graduated within six years, while the federal graduation rate was less than 43 percent. HSIs also serve Hispanic students by promoting a racially diverse student body, fostering a positive and open campus and providing student services that are specifically designed to help Hispanic students. For instance, school administrators and service providers are bilingual, and the colleges operate Latinx outreach programs at local area high schools.

Within the context of federal funding, the requirements of an HSI are more stringent. To receive federal funds pursuant to Title V of the Higher Education Act of 1965, a school qualifies as an HSI if all of the following requirements are met:

  • At least 25 percent of its full-time equivalent undergraduate students classify as Hispanic.
  • At least 50 percent of its entire student population is eligible for need-based Title IV financial aid.
  • Otherwise meets the requirements to receive federal funding, such as being an accredited, degree-granting institution.

How the HSIs Stack Up

Curious about which schools are HSIs and how they stack up against each other? See how the HSI schools rank against each other in terms of graduation rates, percentage of Latinx student enrollment, financial aid offered and student retention, and learn about the individual schools on our list and what they offer Hispanic students.

4-year schools



To rank the HSIs, our researchers and higher education experts collected and analyzed data from every accredited postsecondary institution in the United States. The goal? To see which colleges offered the most notable balances of academic rigor, Hispanic student support and affordability. The specific criteria and scoring metrics for the ranking are as follows:

General criteria for schools on this list:
  • Accredited, not-for-profit 2- and 4-year public or private institution
  • Membership in the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU)
  • Named as an HSI by the HACU
  • Enrollment of at least 25% Hispanic students attending full-time
  • Eligible for Title IV Funding
Scoring metrics:
  • Average net price
  • Percentage of Hispanic students enrolled
  • Percentage of beginning, full-time undergrads receiving financial aid
  • Alternative tuition plans offered
Rank University Location Ranking Score Avg Net Price LGBTQ Scholarships Inclusive Housing plan School-Profile
1 Florida International University Miami, FL 98.37 $12219 School Profile
2 California State University, San Bernardino San Bernardino, CA 91.40 $8704 School Profile
3 The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Harlingen, TX 90.47 $4095 School Profile
4 California State University, Stanislaus Turlock, CA 90.00 $6768 School Profile
5 University of California, Riverside Riverside, CA 88.60 $12404 School Profile
6 Fresno Pacific University Fresno, CA 88.60 $14235 School Profile
7 Texas A&M International University Laredo, TX 87.21 $4857 School Profile
8 Mount Saint Mary's University Los Angeles, CA 86.98 $28910 School Profile
9 California State University, Fullerton Fullerton, CA 86.51 $8562 School Profile
10 California State University, Long Beach Long Beach, CA 86.28 $9654 School Profile
11 University of California, Merced Merced, CA 86.28 $13147 School Profile
12 University of La Verne La Verne, CA 85.58 $27718 School Profile
13 California State University, Dominguez Hills Carson, CA 84.42 $4957 School Profile
14 Lehman College, CUNY Bronx, NY 84.19 $2939 School Profile
15 California State University, Los Angeles Los Angeles, CA 83.49 $3907 School Profile
16 St. Mary's University San Antonio, TX 83.26 $17806 School Profile
17 California State University, Fresno Fresno, CA 80.70 $5879 School Profile
18 California State University, Monterey Bay Seasid, CA 79.53 $11233 School Profile
19 San Diego State University San Diego, CA 78.37 $13363 School Profile
20 California State Polytechnic University, Pomona Pomona, CA 77.44 $12634 School Profile
21 The University of Texas at El Paso El Paso, TX 77.21 $6785 School Profile
22 University of California, Irvine Irvine, CA 76.05 $13944 School Profile
23 California State University Channel Islands Camarillo, CA 75.58 $14834 School Profile
24 University of the Incarnate Word San Antonio, TX 75.35 $21895 School Profile
25 Whittier College Whittier, CA 74.65 $26764 School Profile
26 John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY New York, NY 74.65 $4891 School Profile
27 University of California, Santa Cruz Santa Cruz, CA 74.42 $16792 School Profile
28 South Texas College McAllen, TX 73.02 $1825 School Profile
29 California State University, Bakersfield Bakersfield, CA 72.56 $6794 School Profile
30 University of California, Santa Barbara Santa Barbara, CA 72.09 $16154 School Profile
31 California Lutheran University Thousand Oaks, CA 71.63 $28241 School Profile
32 Rutgers the State University of New Jersey, Newark Campus Newark, NJ 71.63 $12020 School Profile
33 St. Edward's University Austin, TX 71.16 $25669 School Profile
34 Trinity University San Antonio, TX 70.47 $28540 School Profile
35 New Mexico State University Las Cruces, NM 70.47 $9449 School Profile
36 Heritage University Toppenish, WA 70.00 $11742 School Profile
37 California State University, Chico Chico, CA 69.53 $14185 School Profile
38 University of Central Florida Orlando, FL 69.30 $15341 School Profile
39 Azusa Pacific University Azusa, CA 69.30 $28784 School Profile
40 The University of New Mexico Albuquerque, NM 69.30 $11283 School Profile
41 Dominican University River Forest, IL 69.07 $18250 School Profile
42 Saint Peter's University Jersey City, NJ 69.07 $13377 School Profile
43 California State University, Northridge Northridge, CA 68.84 $5958 School Profile
44 Texas A&M University-Kingsville Kingsville, TX 68.84 $13017 School Profile
45 California State University, San Marcos San Marcos, CA 68.60 $10454 School Profile
46 Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles, CA 67.21 $42459 School Profile
47 Mills College Oakland, CA 66.74 $26086 School Profile
48 Northern New Mexico College Española, NM 66.74 $6891 School Profile
49 Saint Mary's College of California Moraga, CA 66.51 $33414 School Profile
50 Hallmark University San Antonio, TX 66.05 $10814 School Profile
view more

2-year schools

Rank University Location Ranking Score Avg Net Price LGBTQ Scholarships Inclusive Housing plan School-Profile
1 Laredo Community College Laredo, TX 98.84 $6002 School Profile
2 Porterville College Porterville, CA 96.05 $2215 School Profile
3 Stella and Charles Guttman Community College, CUNY New York, NY 95.58 $4790 School Profile
4 Oxnard College Oxnard, CA 90.70 $3860 School Profile
5 Palo Alto College San Antonio, TX 87.21 $6795 School Profile
6 Hartnell College Salinas, CA 84.42 $10904 School Profile
7 Southwest Texas Junior College Uvalde, TX 84.19 $6780 School Profile
8 Ventura College Ventura, CA 83.49 $4011 School Profile
9 College of the Desert Palm Desert, CA 83.49 $10002 School Profile
10 Allan Hancock College Santa Maria, CA 83.26 $5560 School Profile
11 Reedley College Reedley, CA 82.09 $3653 School Profile
12 Mt. San Antonio College Walnut, CA 80.70 $4890 School Profile
13 Citrus College Glendora, CA 80.23 $4052 School Profile
14 Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas De Queen, AR 78.37 $5366 School Profile
15 West Hills College Coalinga Coalinga, CA 78.37 $9203 School Profile
16 El Paso Community College El Paso, TX 78.14 $4553 School Profile
17 West Hills College Lemoore Lemoore, CA 77.67 $10088 School Profile
18 Southwestern College Chula Vista, CA 76.28 $5850 School Profile
19 Los Angeles Trade-Technical College Los Angeles, CA 75.58 $7797 School Profile
20 Morton College Cicero, IL 75.58 $4327 School Profile
21 Mesalands Community College Tucumcari, NM 74.65 $7700 School Profile
22 University of New Mexico, Taos Ranchos de Taos, NM 71.16 $6725 School Profile
23 Clovis Community College Clovis, NM 70.93 $7022 School Profile
24 Northwest Vista College San Antonio, TX 69.07 $7269 School Profile
25 Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College, CUNY Bronx, NY 68.14 $6334 School Profile
26 Dodge City Community College Dodge City, KS 65.81 $7704 School Profile
27 Moorpark College Moorpark, CA 65.12 $4293 School Profile
28 Las Positas College Livermore, CA 64.65 $5932 School Profile
29 Los Angeles Mission College Sylmar, CA 64.65 $9044 School Profile
30 Gavilan College Gilroy, CA 63.72 $10124 School Profile
31 Riverside City College Riverside, CA 63.49 $7462 School Profile
32 Fullerton College Fullerton, CA 62.09 $6208 School Profile
33 Bronx Community College, CUNY Bronx, NY 62.09 $6038 School Profile
34 The University of New Mexico - Valencia Campus Los Lunas, NM 61.63 $6408 School Profile
35 San Bernardino Valley College San Bernardino, CA 61.40 $9233 School Profile
36 Wilbur Wright College, City Colleges of Chicago Chicago, IL 61.40 $3969 School Profile
37 Galveston College Galveston, TX 61.16 $4421 School Profile
38 Mt. San Jacinto College San Jacinto, CA 60.93 $6863 School Profile
39 Eastern New Mexico University - Roswell Roswell, NM 60.00 $6231 School Profile
40 Chaffey College Rancho Cucamonga, CA 60.00 $10526 School Profile
41 Moreno Valley College Moreno Valley, CA 60.00 $7998 School Profile
42 Arizona Western College Yuma, AZ 59.77 $9735 School Profile
43 Napa Valley College Napa, CA 59.53 $13068 School Profile
44 Long Beach City College Long Beach, CA 59.07 $5526 School Profile
45 Western Texas College Snyder, TX 58.60 $5500 School Profile
46 South Mountain Community College Phoenix, AZ 58.14 $6975 School Profile
47 East Los Angeles College Monterey Park, CA 58.14 $9465 School Profile
48 Hillsborough Community College Tampa, FL 56.98 $4845 School Profile
49 San Jacinto College Pasadena, TX 56.05 $8932 School Profile
50 Pasadena City College Pasadena, CA 55.12 $8030 School Profile
view more

Compared to national averages, students at HSIs enjoy high graduation rates, but there are other characteristics that make HSIs quite attractive to potential students. Those are the factors we used when ranking the best Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Some of these factors include:

Percentage of Latinx student enrollment

This number will be at least 25 percent, but a higher percentage can reinforce a school’s strong commitment to diversity. And the higher this enrollment, the more likely the school will have robust services and programs specifically tailored to its Hispanic student population.

Student retention

Everybody loses when a student drops out. The student loses time and money and has little to show for their hard work. The school loses its financial investment in the student. It’s more expensive for a school to recruit a new student than it is to keep an existing one. So schools with high retention rates have more money to spend on educating students rather than looking for new ones.

Latinx graduation rate

A high number of Hispanic students means nothing if they’re not graduating. This metric looks at how Latinx students are doing compared to their non-Hispanic college peers. A Latinx graduation rate that is significantly lower than the school’s overall graduation rate is a potential red flag.

Percentage of students receiving financial aid

This measure shows what proportion of a school’s student population qualifies as low-income, as well as how well the school works to help students receive the financial aid they need. Many schools will have institution-specific scholarships to help ease the burden or a robust financial aid department that works hard on the student’s behalf. This metric can also put a school’s overall cost in perspective, as even a high tuition rate is manageable if the vast majority of students receive significant financial aid.

Student services offered

At some point during their college career, most students need a little boost when it comes to academics or personal issues. Schools with more student services available make it easier for students to receive the help they need to succeed in school.


This is one of the biggest factors that affect college attendance for any prospective student. After all, it doesn’t matter how good a school is if no one can afford to go there! But this takes into account more than cost; the school’s cost of living and special financial programs can make an otherwise unaffordable school much more reasonable.

Why are HSIs important?

HSIs are important because they place a special emphasis on educating Hispanic students. Given the growing size of the Hispanic population in the United States as a whole, along with the benefit of a college degree, it’s easy to understand the significance and importance of HSIs. Hispanic-Serving Institutions also have a high percentage of low-income students; the more opportunities these students have to complete their education and earn a higher wage upon graduation, the better.

The statistics back up the benefit of HSIs. The graduation rate of full-time students at HSIs exceeds the federal rate across both public and private four-year schools, as well as two-year public colleges. A higher graduation rate translates into more individuals with a degree that can move them into a higher-paying job, thus encouraging a better life for those who worked hard for that degree. The impact of that higher wage not only serves the person who earns it, but helps their families and communities as well.

Another reason why HSIs are important boils down to money, and how much of it goes to the students who really need it. It’s expensive to operate a post-secondary educational institution. Despite all the talk about the high cost of a college degree, in many schools, the tuition that students pay only covers part of the total cost of their education. That’s why colleges and universities rely heavily on donations and federal funds to educate students.

If a school is recognized by the US Department of Education as an HSI, it is eligible to receive federal grants that are exclusive to HSIs. HSIs receive funds through Title V, which they can use for a plethora of authorized uses, including providing student services, upgrading facilities and improving the quality of faculty and academic offerings. This provides a much better educational experience for students.

How do these schools promote Latinx success?

HSIs have a wide degree of latitude in how they use federal grant money to improve the college education experience of Hispanic students. Let’s take a look at some of the more popular programs.

Migrant Retention Programs

Recognizing that many Hispanic students have migrant and seasonal farm work backgrounds, schools have developed special programs that focus on helping these students stay in school despite their families’ transient living and working arrangements. Specific program activities include cultural affirmation, academic assistance and residential living arrangements.

Today’s economy requires not just a college degree, but tangible skills. HSIs see this need for graduates that can immediately start contributing when entering the workforce and have special programs to teach critical skills. Some of these may be vocational or trade skills, like nursing. But some of the skills are more practical, such as writing ability.

For many Hispanic students, English is not their first language. Therefore, many schools offer support services that aim to strengthen students’ English language skills to make them more successful in college. Other HSI support services can include remedial classes and academic assistance to reinforce students’ foundational academic knowledge.

College is not as accessible to certain students as others. HSIs undertake a variety of program to ensure Hispanic prospective college students have a fair opportunity to make it into college. These programs include outreach initiatives at local area high schools and neighborhoods, cohort learning with fellow peers and providing academic, financial and cultural assistance.

Some of the best jobs with respect to earning potential and availability are in the science, technology, engineering and math sectors of the economy. But the education required to enter these fields is especially challenging or intimidating for college students. HSIs encourage Hispanic students to study a STEM field through a variety of programs, including conferences, student tutors, faculty mentoring, student research projects and supplemental academic instruction.

The Growth of HSIs

With the overall growth of the Hispanic population, there has been a corresponding growth of HSIs. When the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) was founded in 1986, it had less than 20 founding member institutions. Currently, HACU represents more than 450 post-secondary institutions in the United States, Spain, Latin America and Puerto Rico.

A significant step in HSI growth began in 1995 when Congress allowed for schools with high numbers of Hispanic students to be eligible to receive federal grants on the basis of Hispanic student populations. During this first year, HSIs received $12 million. In the 2018 year, HSIs received over $120 million. The primary reason for this increase in funding is due to the immense growth in HSIs over the past decade. For instance, from 2006 to 2016, the number of HSIs rose by 78 percent. The number of HSIs, as well the amount of federal money flowing to them, is expected to continue growing for the foreseeable future as the Hispanic population makes up a larger percentage of the United States population

The United States Census Bureau estimates that by 2060, the Hispanic population will reach 119 million and make up more than 28 percent of the United States population. To put this in perspective, as of July 1, 2016, the US Census Bureau estimated that the Hispanic population consisted of 57.5 million individuals and made up 17.8 percent of the total population.

Campus Resources for Hispanic Students

Many HSIs offer robust resources for students, and some of them are quite unique. Here are a few examples of campus resources for Hispanic students that can make an enormous difference in the lives of those who take advantage of them.

California State University, Dominguez Hills – Encounter to Excellence

The Encounter to Excellence (ETE) program is intended to help incoming freshmen make the most of their first year in college. It begins with the Summer Bridge program, where students have an opportunity to brush up on their English and math skills and begin working on their required college courses. After classes begin in the fall, students will receive additional assistance and guidance in the form of peer mentoring, supplemental instruction and academic advising. All these student services are available at no additional cost.

Miami Dade College – Shark Path

Shark Path is a three-phase program to encourage and support Hispanic students who want to attend college. The first step involves sending pre-college advisors to meet with high school students, inform them of the advantages of getting a college degree and help them gain admission to Miami Dade College, should they choose to apply. Once accepted and enrolled at Miami Dade College, students will begin the second step, which consists of partnering with a first-year advisor. That advisor will help the student choose an academic and career goal and then develop a prospective course map to achieve those goals. Finally, the third stage involves meeting with a college mentor, who can provide advice and guidance on post-graduate plans, such as applying to graduate school, landing internships and understanding career options.

University of Central Florida – McNair Scholar’s Program

The McNair Scholar’s Program was created to help disadvantaged students obtain a graduate degree at the doctorate level. Hispanic undergraduate students interested in obtaining a doctorate degree can take advantage of several student services while attending the University of Central Florida. Through the use of seminars and faculty and peer mentors, students can get help in finding research mentors, getting accepted into a summer research program, networking, creating the most effective graduate school application and obtaining general advice on make the most of graduate school.


  • Adelante

    Designed to help Hispanic college students, Adelante achieves its goals by helping students graduate and lead others.


    As a nonprofit organization, ASPIRA’s mission is to improve the Latino community through encouraging education and leadership in Hispanic youth.

  • CHCI

    The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute is a nonprofit organization that operates special programs to help Latinx students and future leaders.

  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund

    The Hispanic Scholarship Fund assists Hispanics in higher education by providing support services and scholarship aid.

  • Excelencia in Education

    An organization that works to promote Hispanics in higher education.

  • Pathways to College

    Pathways to College looks to help under-served minority children achieve a college education.

  • TheDream.us

    DREAMers are immigrant youth who entered the United States without documentation. TheDream.us works to ensure these individuals graduate college and are ready to enter the workforce.

  • US Department of Education

    The US Department of Education is responsible for administering federal funding for education efforts in the United States. Part of this task includes providing grants to HSIs under Title V.

  • LNESC: The LULAC National Educational Service Centers, Inc.

    As the educational branch of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), LNESC is a nonprofit organization that implements a variety of programs for helping disadvantaged youth have access to college.

  • HACU

    The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities represents HSIs in the United States and across the globe. The primary mission is to improve college opportunities for Hispanics.

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