Serving Our Hispanic Students

Equipped with drive, ambition, yet some doubt, Jennie stepped onto APU’s campus as a first-generation college student committed to pursuing her academic goals. Reflecting on her APU experience, Jennie shared, “I’m extremely grateful for my time at APU. My academic journey set me up for success outside of the four walls of a classroom. I learned how to critically think for myself, acquired noncognitive development skills, and gained mentors that will forever pour into me professionally and personally.” Jennie earned her bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s degree in college counseling and student development and has served first-generation students at APU and low-income families in the community.

As a commuter student at APU, Ulises is excelled academically, experienced community, and engaged his faith while working part time and taking care of his younger brothers. Ulises remarked, “My biggest challenge with navigating college was finding the balance between school, work, and family responsibilities in order to do well in all areas and not feeling burnt out.” Leaning into community for support, Ulises developed a rhythm and leveraged his agency to manage his personal and academic demands to thrive, and he mentored underclassmen needing support. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a minor in biblical studies.

Jennie and Ulises reflections reveal some of the lived experiences of APU Hispanic students. At Azusa Pacific University, more than 56 percent of the traditional undergraduate and 57 percent of graduate and professional students identify as students of color. Of that, approximately 33 percent of traditional undergraduate and 32 percent of the graduate and professional student populations identify as Hispanic. Each student has a unique story, journey, and cultural capacity that reflects God’s image, boundless love, and creativity. As the university demography grows increasingly diverse reflecting layers of intersectionality, it presents the opportunity to consider strategic pathways that can be leveraged to optimize the learning, engagement, and success for all students.

What is a Hispanic-Serving Institution?

The Higher Education Act defines a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) as an eligible institution of higher education that has an enrollment of undergraduate full-time equivalent students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students. In 2018, the Hispanic Association of Schools and Colleges reported that there were approximately 539 HSIs in the U.S. with the highest concentration in California.

APU applied for HSI status in 2014 and was awarded the designation in 2015. The HSI designation falls under a larger overarching designation known as Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) which include U.S colleges and universities that enroll a high percentage of minority students. MSIs include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and HSIs, as well as institutions of higher education with high enrollments of Native Americans, Asian Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders, and Alaska Natives and Native Hawaiians.

What does this mean for APU?

With this designation, APU may compete for grants under Title III & Title V of the Higher Education Act. In collaboration with the Office of Research and Grants, university departments can submit grant proposals to the Department of Education to support the establishment of an HSI administrative infrastructure and comprehensive programming and resources for the growing population of Hispanic students at APU.

In addition, under the leadership of President Ferguson, the APU community is engaging a strategic planning process that addresses a number of themes, including Creating a University Environment Where Students Thrive and Experience Belonging. This catalytic process will guide the community developing an organizational infrastructure to amplify services and resources that meet the unique needs of all students including minoritized populations while eliminating barriers that inhibit successful navigation and holistic student success. These efforts will align with APU’s distinction as a Christ-centered university committed to academic excellence while further establishing the community as a Hispanic Serving Institution.