Rhode Island College Becomes First Institution of Higher Education in RI to Earn Hispanic Serving Institution Status

Two Female Graduates
Rhode Island College Impact

Federal designation unlocks opportunities to earn capacity building grants that strengthen the college’s ability to serve all populations.

Rhode Island College has become the first institution of higher education in Rhode Island to earn federal Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status. HSI status is defined by the Higher Education Act and designated by the U.S. Department of Education to acknowledge Title V-eligible colleges and universities where 25 percent or more of total undergraduate full-time equivalent student enrollment identifies as Hispanic or Latinx. Eligibility must be met annually.

As of 2021, there were 559 HSIs across 29 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, enrolling two-thirds of all Hispanic/Latinx undergraduates in the U.S. RIC currently has the highest percentage of Hispanic/Latinx students of any institution of higher education in the state, with 25 percent.

The designation makes the college eligible to apply for additional federal funding to expand educational opportunities for and improve the academic attainment of Hispanic/Latinx students. These funds are also intended to expand and enhance the overall academic offerings, program quality, and institutional stability of the college. The college fully intends to pursue a Title V grant this summer as well as other capacity building grants. With Rhode Island’s Hispanic/Latinx population growing by nearly 40 percent over the last decade, from 12.4 percent in the 2010 Census to 16.6 percent in 2020, HSI status is aligned with the college’s mission to make a four-year degree accessible to all Rhode Islanders. 

HSI status is a recognition of RIC's growing student diversity and its dedication to expanding access to higher education for all Rhode Islanders. HSIs tend to serve high concentrations of diverse populations that have historically been underrepresented in higher education; have high percentages of low-income students; and serve a large number of first-generation college students. With nearly 40 percent of RIC undergraduates identifying as people of color and nearly half identifying as the first in their families to attend college, the school educates the most economically, culturally and racially diverse cross-section of Rhode Islanders of any four-year institution in the state.

“One of Rhode Island College's greatest strengths is the diversity of our students. As a Latina born and raised in Rhode Island, I have seen and lived these demographic changes over the years,” says Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Anna Cano-Morales. “Hispanic Serving Institution designation is a recognition of that growing diversity, as well as our commitment to ensuring that we also create actionable and institution-wide changes leading to equity and inclusion. We are proud that our campus community continues to be more representative of the state that it serves every year."

Designation as an HSI could also help increase enrollments. With the number of high school graduates in New England expected to decline by nearly 13 percent over the next 15 years, Hispanic/Latinx students represent one of the few growth areas for recruitment. Though 16.6 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic/Latinx, they account for 22 percent of all K-12 students in Rhode Island and approximately 68 percent of all Providence Public School students. Similarly, the school has identified transfer students as a high-priority opportunity to grow its enrollments. In 2018, Hispanic/Latinx students earned nearly one quarter of all associate degrees nationwide.

“We are extremely proud to be the first school in Rhode Island to earn Hispanic Serving Institution status,” says President Frank D. Sánchez, the first Hispanic-American president of a college or university in Rhode Island. “This is in keeping with our legacy of being the state's first public institution of higher education, as well as our ongoing mission to put a four-year degree within reach for more Rhode Islanders. With Rhode Island residents making up nearly 90 percent of our undergraduate students and more than 70 percent of our graduates continuing to live and work here, we truly are Rhode Island's college.”