APU Continues Upward Trajectory of Service and Accessibility for Hispanic Students

by Cynndie Hoff

Recognizing that reflecting the Kingdom of God is an ongoing, life-giving process, Azusa Pacific continues to pour its efforts into creating a welcoming environment for all students, a place where they will thrive and succeed during their college years.

The most recent statistics reveal an exciting movement toward the community’s shared objective: 52 percent of APU’s more than 10,000 students are ethnically diverse; 1,535 of the more than 5,000 undergraduates receive Cal Grants; and 75 percent of Cal Grant recipients come from underserved families, especially Hispanic/Latino/a students.

For several years in a row, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education has ranked APU in the top 100 universities for awarding Hispanic master’s degrees. In spring 2011, due in large part to the efforts of Jonathan Garcia ’11, one of Forbes’ “30 Under 30 in Education” for 2018 and former president of the Latin American Student Association, Azusa Pacific joined the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which champions success in higher education. For the second year in a row, APU earned status again as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), an honor that must be reevaluated and renewed annually.

The federal designation, granted to universities based on the percentage of Latino students enrolled and the quality of services provided, can only be achieved through the demonstrated merit and effectiveness of its programs. As 1 of only 7 Coalition of Christian Colleges & Universities institutions and 291 schools nationwide to earn this designation, APU clearly stands out as an institution dedicated to creating and advancing programs that support the unique needs of racial/ethnic undergraduate and graduate students, and provides targeted outreach and support for Hispanic Americans, students of color, and underrepresented students.

“This designation goes a long way toward reinforcing our commitment to better representing the image of Christ and diversity of our community, and providing the resources needed to come alongside our Latino students as they work hard to achieve their academic goals and objectives,” said Kim B.W. Denu, Ph.D., vice president and chief diversity officer.

This designation also qualifies APU to apply for Title V funding, which provides federal grants that assist HSIs such as APU in expanding and enhancing their academic offerings and program quality.

Several APU departments and areas work collaboratively to provide this support, including: the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer/Vice President; the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence; the Student Center for Reconciliation and Diversity; and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment. These teams help increase higher educational opportunities for students of color by sponsoring, developing, and sustaining a variety of growing programs at APU, such as:

As Azusa Pacific continues to enjoy this pronounced shift in the demographic composition of its student population toward a more diverse representation, these programs have proven instrumental in providing support to thrive while studying at APU and to cross the finish line at graduation. At the undergraduate level, in fall 2008, Latino students made up only 13 percent of the population. In 2017-18, that number rose to 31 percent, making Latinos the second-largest segment of the student population, the majority in professional programs, and 60 percent of first-generation college students.

“We are not where we used to be, we are not where we want to be, but we are on that journey to this place that will reflect the diversity of greater L.A.,” said President Jon R. Wallace, DBA, in a recent Diversity Mosaic Experience (DME) video. The HSI designation provides a path toward that goal as APU pursues its collective responsibility to increase higher educational opportunities for Hispanic/Latino(a) and all students.