APU Is a Hispanic-Serving Institution Bridging a Gap

by Naomi Mannino

Everyone deserves to receive the education they need to pursue their dreams. However, within some generations of American Latino families, few members have graduated from college. According to the U.S. Department of Education, the Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program was created to help more Hispanic students attend and graduate college, and many become the first in their family to do so.

The program has been working well at Azusa Pacific University, which is a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). In fact, during the 2017-18 school year, the Latino population rose to 31 percent at APU. Latinos are now the second-largest segment of the undergraduate student population, and account for 60 percent of first-generation college students.

What Is a Hispanic-Serving Institution?

The federal designation as an HSI is granted to a university based on the percentage of Latino students enrolled at the college (25 percent or more) as well as the quality of services provided to these students, according to Kim B.W. Denu, Ph.D., vice president and chief diversity officer at APU.

So, what does that mean to students?

“As a federally-designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, this means Azusa Pacific University is dedicated to creating and advancing programs that support the unique needs of racial and ethnic undergraduate and graduate students,” Denu explains. “Our outreach and support is not only limited to Latino students but all students of color and underrepresented students.”

Schools with the HSI designation are eligible to receive federal grant funds for the purposes of expanding educational programs and support, such as adding scientific or laboratory equipment for teaching and renovating classrooms or buildings. The funds can also be put toward developing additional faculty and teacher education programs to meet the needs of Hispanic students, purchasing additional education materials and tools, expanding academic counseling and tutoring programs, as well as strengthening other support services and specialized on-campus groups.

Building a Bridge to the Community and Beyond

It’s important for an institution of higher learning to represent the communities they serve, notes Richard S. Martinez, Ed.D., executive director for the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence at APU.

“Azusa Pacific University resides in Southern California, one of the most diverse areas of the nation,” he says. “Further, as a Christian Evangelical institution, it is our moral imperative to reflect APU’s foundational principle of ensuring that all students are welcome, successful, and thrive in this academic setting.”

There’s an important connection between a school that merits HSI status, such as APU, and first-generation student outreach and support.

“Because of this program, we have seen the percentage of our first-generation college students continue to dramatically increase over the past several years,” Martinez continues. “And, these APU first-generation students play a significant role in building bridges of influence to the multi-cultural and diverse communities that we serve in and around Southern California.”

In Spanish, the word confianza means “trust.” Through intentional relationship-building and proactive academic support, APU aims to continue to build confianza not only with students, but also with future Hispanic students, families, and communities.