The University of California’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Initiative recently released a report titled “La Lucha Sigue: The University of California’s Role as a Hispanic-Serving Research Institution System.” With an eye on the Latinx communities’ future in-state growth and vital contributions to California’s economy, the HSI Initiative gives UC leaders a window into the Latinx student experience, while highlighting California’s looming economic challenges.

According to the Public Policy Institute of California, the state faces a shortage of 1.1 million college graduates by 2030. In order to address this shortfall, the report details how Latinx communities will make up an even larger share of UC campus populations and offers a blueprint for UC leaders on how to foster Latinx student success in the years ahead.

As “La Lucha Sigue: The University of California’s Role as a Hispanic-Serving Research Institution System” states, this document “provides recent, foundational information grounded in data to provide readers an understanding of the changing California demographics that have led to UC’s high Latinx enrollment numbers. In an effort to move conversations beyond access and enrollment, this report also showcases academic outcomes for Latinxs enrolled at UC over time.” It goes on to state, “Ultimately, as the authors of this report, we perceive an ongoing need to focus on Latinx students and their experiences at UC. We contend that by leveraging UC’s role as an [Hispanic-Serving Research Institution] HSRI system, the university is well-positioned to make significant contributions to research, policy, and practice across the nation.”

UC has seen exponential growth in its Latinx student populations. In 1992, UC’s Latino Eligibility Taskforce found that just 4 percent of California Latinx high school graduates were eligible for admission to UC. Now, 45 percent of Latinx public high school graduates are UC-eligible. This growth has propelled five out of nine undergraduate UC campuses to secure federal designations as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs): UC Irvine, UC Merced, UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and UC Santa Cruz. The remaining four undergraduate campuses, UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UCLA and UC San Diego, are emerging HSIs, deemed as institutions with 15 to 24 percent Latinx undergraduate enrollment, as defined by Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit dedicated to Latinx student success in higher education.

As an HSRI system, UC is now poised to build on the tremendous progress already made.

“UC-HSI provides us with a progress report for UC to better understand how our efforts have borne fruit, and a blueprint for transformational leadership for us to become the model Hispanic-Serving Research Institution system in support of Latinx and other students from underrepresented groups,” said Dr. Yvette Gullatt, vice president for Graduate and Undergraduate Affairs and vice provost for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion.

As the report demonstrates, enrollment numbers for Latinx students at UC are surging. From 2009-19, UC saw an 89.8 percent increase in enrolled Latinx students with the greatest increases in Latinx enrollment occurring at UC’s now-designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions: Irvine, Merced, Riverside, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz. Collectively, these five campuses increased their Latinx student enrollment by over 90 percent during the same period. The report also finds areas for additional growth and strategic improvement at UC including in Latinx student graduation rates, in fostering greater Latinx student postgraduate enrollment, and in recruiting additional Latinx faculty.

In its study, the UC-HSI Initiative identifies key findings for UC to consider. Some of them include leveraging the University’s HSI status to expand efforts beyond the recruitment and enrollment of Latinx students to the retention, timely graduation, and post-baccalaureate pathways for these students. As the authors highlight, “by increasing the number of Latinx graduate students and retaining and graduating them, UC can foster the next generation of faculty, leaders, and critical thinkers who are representative of the demographics of the state.” The authors also suggest that by creating a definition of “serving” for individual campuses and the UC system as a whole, a conversation can begin on creating new indicators for academic success that better encompass the holistic experiences of Latinx students at UC. Additionally, the report urges the University to consider opportunities for creating a statewide learning community between UC, the California State University (CSU) system, and California Community Colleges (CCC) to share knowledge, expertise, and best practices for Latinx student success as this population becomes an even greater share of California’s college student population.

The University of California Hispanic-Serving Institutions Initiative plans to release additional reports in this series exploring UC’s unique position as a doctoral-granting, research-intensive, public HSRI and further detailing how Latinx UC students experience campus climate. You may find further information on the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Initiative here.