Embracing a Demographic Shift and Educational Equity

The University of California has been at the forefront of a decades-long movement to democratize access to and diversify higher education. Today, UC leads the nation in creating economic mobility, educating more first-generation and low-income college students than any other institution of its caliber — but does so with half the funding per capita compared to what their peers received 30 or 40 years ago.  

While UC continues to pioneer strategies for underserved students to thrive, both funding and structural academic support continue to be hurdles to their success. At UC Santa Cruz (UCSC), we believe it is critical to rethink academic practices and assumptions in light of a changing student body to make the entire UC system more reflective of California's population and create a more just world.

Becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution

In 2012, UCSC enrolled more than 25% Latinx undergraduate students, turning it into the third UC to become a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) according to the U.S. Department of Education definition. Reaching this milestone enabled the university to join the Hispanic Association of Colleges & Universities (HACU) as a member institution, and to eventually apply for federal grants focused on advancing educational equity and strengthening support for Latinx students and other underrepresented and low-income students.

UCSC appointed an HSI Task Force of dedicated faculty, staff, and students to examine nationwide research and best practices while crafting a plan to increase educational equity and achievement among Latinx students. The Task Force identified five research-based areas to better promote student success and institutional transformation in mathematics, writing, advising, sense of belonging, and transfer pathways.

Earning the Department of Education HSI Eligibility

After conducting an HSI Eligibility Analysis and applying to become HSI-eligible for U.S. Department of Education Title III and V grants, in 2014 UCSC received its first letter of designation. In 2015, the HSI Task Force submitted proposals for two Department of Education Title V grants which were awarded that same year. Receiving this designation paved the way for UCSC to obtain six multi-million dollar HSI grants designed to support college, transfer, career, and graduate pathways of Latinx, underrepresented, and low-income students.