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 proportion 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 almost 500 HSI-eligible institutions in the U.S., but very few in the Midwest. While they comprise only a 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.

*A note about terminology: “Hispanic” broadly refers to people of Spanish-speaking descent, while “Latino/a” (or the more gender-neutral term “Latinx”) refers to residents of the U.S. who trace their ancestry to Latin America. While many students prefer the term Latinx, in the Higher Education Act, which defines Hispanic-Serving Institutions, the term Hispanic is used. Moreover, the federal government uses the terms Hispanic and Latino interchangeably in the census. In the absence of consensus and in order to be inclusive in our terminology, we often use both terms.

Why is the HSI designation important to Marquette?

Serving underrepresented and low-income students 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 2015 study conducted by the Association for American Colleges and Universities reported that 78% of employers felt that college should learn intercultural skills, and 96% of employers thought college should prepare students to solve problems with people whose views are different from their own. 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/ Latinx 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/ Latinx students already comprise almost 25% of all enrollment in k-12 Catholic schools in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, spanning 10 counties in southeast Wisconsin.

How far do we have to go?

When the university launched this initiative in the spring of 2016, our undergraduate student enrollment was 9.7% Hispanic/Latinx, and that percentage has since risen to 12%, with a 2017 freshman cohort that is 16.3% Hispanic/Latinx. Our goal is to increase our overall undergraduate Hispanic/Latinx enrollment to 25% by the 2026-27 academic year. You can find our most current demographic data on the composition dashboard.

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 and Native American student enrollment, retention, and support. We hope that some of the recruitment and retention strategies we employ for Hispanic/Latinx students will help us yield more students from other underrepresented groups as well.

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.

How will Marquette achieve this goal of becoming an HSI?

In 2017, an HSI Steering Committee was convened to explore current practices and determine needs in a variety of areas, including but not limited to: community outreach, pre-college programs, recruitment and transfer support, retention and support services, campus climate, curricular offerings, hiring practices, financial assistance, and alumni engagement. Based on the committee’s findings, the university has been making shifts in institutional practices, increased staffing in key areas, and enhanced programming. Here is a snapshot of our progress so far:

We are enhancing our outreach to the Hispanic/Latinx community here in Milwaukee. To this end, we have established regular touchpoints with key community stakeholders, such as local schools, CBOs, and the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese, we have launched an HSI Community Advisory Board, and we have developed and scaled up mentoring, college literacy, and outreach programs for high school students.

We are increasing our capacity for Spanish language outreach. About 1/3 of our Hispanic/Latinx students state that Spanish is their primary home language. Since the launch of the HSI initiative, we have hired Spanish-speakers in key areas, such as Admissions, Financial Aid, and New Student and Family Programs, and increased our capacity for Spanish communication with parents of prospective and current students through presentations, print materials, and Spanish-speaking phone operators.

We are taking steps to better support transfer students. First generation, low-income, and underrepresented students are more likely than their peers to start at a two-year college and follow a "non-traditional" pathway to a bachelor's degree. So we have hired a transfer advisor and developed articulation agreements with diverse two-year colleges to ensure that transfer students have enough credits to complete their degree in a timely manner and reduce the overall cost of their college education.

We are working to increase tuition assistance and raise money for additional staff and programming through intentional fundraising efforts. Hispanics/Latinx and other underrepresented students are more likely to be low-income than their peers, and we have made an intentional push in our fundraising efforts to increase our financial assistance and scholarships for eligible students.

We are working to provide better direct support to underrepresented populations. Some of the recent developments in student support include: increased staffing and programming in the Division of Student Affairs focused on helping first generation, low-income, commuter, and underrepresented minority students transition to Marquette and persist through to graduation; an early alert system that helps offices coordinate support efforts and improve retention; and Diversity Liaison Officers in the Marquette University Police Department to improve communication and trust between MUPD and students of color. We continue to evaluate our programs and services to better respond to student needs and improve campus climate for all our diverse students.

We are increasing opportunities for Hispanic/Latinx student engagement and leadership. The Latin American Student Organization (LASO), Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee (HPGM), Sigma Lambda Gamma Sorority, and Sigma Lambda Beta Fraternity, among others, have long been established student organizations on Marquette’s campus. Recent student-led initiatives resulted in the formation of several new Hispanic/Latinx-focused student organizations: SACNAS (Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science) and PALMA (Professional Association of Latinx for Medical School Access). Students also have the opportunity to obtain sponsorships to attend national conferences, such as the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), SACNAS, and the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC).

We are working towards greater diversity in our curricula and our faculty. We recently implemented a new faculty hiring protocol to foster greater diversity in candidate pools. Faculty and administrators are developing a Race and Ethnic Studies program to begin in 2018, and new faculty members are being hired to support this program. In addition, we are working to better support and retain our underrepresented faculty and staff through the development of new Employee Resource Groups.

We are creating greater awareness of diversity and inclusion efforts among administrators, faculty, and staff. Through presentations and workshops with key campus stakeholders, we are encouraging campus-wide dialogue centered on building an inclusive community. One such event was the HSI Day of Reflection with guest speaker Dr. Gina Garcia.

We are making intentional efforts to engage with Hispanic/Latinx alumni. The Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion and the University Engagement team are working with alumni to launch the first Hispanic/Latinx alumni council by fall of 2018.


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