Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month and the impact of Hispanic-Serving Institutions


Starting mid-September through October 15, the nation celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month! This 30-day celebration highlights the robust history and culture of Hispanic and Latin American communities. There are many ways to observe this tradition, from local events serving cultural food staples to musical performances and other forms of art and entertainment. 

At Arizona State University, we celebrate the contributions of Hispanic students across disciplines and are proud to be considered a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI). To honor the community and spread knowledge about what it means to be an HSI, we will dive into the history of the designation and its importance during this month-long celebration.

The start of HSIs

Starting in the 1980s, HSIs cropped up as a grassroots effort to support and expand access to education for people who identify as Hispanic or Latino and are of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish cultural heritage, regardless of race. The focus on enhancing opportunities for this particular group reflected societal shifts from the previous generation. Lawmakers and educators saw a need to increase education access after decades of crunching numbers to find that enrollment and graduation numbers for Hispanic students were meager. It became clear that there needed to be federal intervention to increase these figures across the nation.

Designation criteria

The Department of Education (DoEd) deems a university a (HSI) when its undergrad enrollment is at least 25% Hispanic students. Defined by the Higher Education Opportunity Act, a university eligible for an HSI designation can be public or private but must be accredited and degree-granting. Students must also be full-time for their enrollment to count toward the designation. HSIs comprise 16% of higher education institutions but only serve 65% of all Hispanic students. In June 2022, ASU joined the list of over 550 HSIs, with Hispanic undergraduate enrollment surpassing 16,000, which aligns with a steady upward trend over the past decade.

What are the benefits?

A benefit of being an HSI is that ASU can apply to previously unavailable sponsored programs. Said programs would support less well-resourced organizations and Hispanic communities in reaching their goals. Funded programs and other forms of financial support help boost retention rates and increase the likelihood that Hispanic students will graduate and enter the workforce. Over time, programs and initiatives to benefit this underrepresented population will support the nation's economic advancement and personal career development.

Honoring diversity and inclusion

Aside from the facts and figures that make HSIs necessary, it's also important to mention that Hispanic Heritage Month reaches into other life sectors. Unfortunately, this community's incredible cultural diversity, richness and creativity can go unrecognized, which is why this month is crucial in promoting the visibility of the Hispanic and Latinx communities to showcase their contributions in various spaces. From entertainment to meetups, networking events and academic initiatives – you can participate in the celebrations now through October 15!


Marjani Hawkins