How a new research alliance is laser focused on Hispanic student success
Doubling the number of Hispanics earning doctorates and increasing the ranks of Hispanic professors by 20% is the goal of the newly launched Alliance of Hispanic Serving Research Universities. The new organization sees these benchmarks as a key way to advance social mobility and economic opportunities for Latino students and their communities.
The 20 universities that have joined represent every institution that has been categorized as R1—very high research activity—by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education and designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. “Hispanics are the largest minority group in the United States and are now 17% of the workforce, yet they continue to be underrepresented in higher education,” Heather Wilson, president of The University of Texas at El Paso and chair of the alliance, said in a statement. “No group is better positioned than we are to expand the pathway to opportunity.”
The 20 institutions represent nine states and enroll more than 766,000 students, one-third of whom are Hispanic. In 2020, the universities spent a combined $5.9 billion on research, covering the arts and humanities, STEM, health sciences, social sciences and other fields. In 2019-20, members of the alliance produced 11,027 doctoral graduates, of which 13% were Hispanic.
The universities are already collaborating on several initiatives, including training doctoral students in Latinx humanities and expanding opportunities for Hispanic students in computer science. “By improving Hispanic representation in academia, this alliance will change the face of higher education,” said Kim Wilcox, chancellor of the University of California, Riverside. “We can bring diverse perspectives into the research conducted by our exceptional faculty, creating opportunities for purposeful careers both in and outside of academia for Hispanic students.”
Universities in the alliance include:
- Arizona State University
- City University of New York Graduate Center
- Florida International University
- Texas Tech University
- The University of Arizona
- The University of New Mexico
- The University of Texas at Arlington
- The University of Texas at Austin
- The University of Texas at El Paso
- The University of Texas at San Antonio
- University of California, Irvine
- University of California, Riverside
- University of California, Santa Barbara
- University of California, Santa Cruz
- University of Central Florida
- University of Colorado, Denver
- University of Houston
- University of Illinois Chicago
- University of Nevada, Las Vegas
- University of North Texas
Officials at the University of Texas at San Antonio, where 57% of students identify as Hispanic, say the school has made substantial gains in closing achievement gaps for students of color. In 2021, Hispanic and Black students had six-year graduation rates of 51% and 55%, compared to 48% for their white classmates.
The university offers several student success initiatives to support first-generation students, transfer students, Dreamers and students with a history of foster care. The “First to Go and Graduate” program pairs first-generation students with peer mentors and faculty coaches who were also the first in their families to attend college. To date, the program has served 1,403 students, including 821 Latino students.
UTSA Bold Promise covers 100% of a first-time freshman’s tuition and fees for four years and is open to students with a family income of $50,500 per year, a threshold that will increase to $70,000 in fall 2022. In fall 2021, 79% of newly enrolled Bold Promise students identified as Hispanic or Latino. And Graduation Help Desk helps students from families without college experience resolve roadblocks to graduation.
“Hispanic Serving Institutions are founded in opportunity, equity and inclusion,” said UTSA President Taylor Eighmy, who serves on the alliance’s executive committee. “Our membership in the alliance aligns closely with that mission, our strategic plan, and our trajectory here in San Antonio and South Texas.”