Sierra College Receives Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Designation

On February 22, Sierra College was designated by the US Department of Education as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). “This designation is extremely important,” shared Willy Duncan, Superintendent/President. “It will pave the way for Sierra College to compete for federal funding opportunities to continue our efforts to improve the educational experience for our Latinx students.”

The US Department of Education defines an HSI as an eligible institution of higher education whose full-time equivalent students are at least 25% Latinx. Currently, Sierra’s Latinx student population is 26.5% of the 18,000 undergraduates enrolled in the District.

Sierra has a number of existing programs available to support Latinx students including the Puente Program, a statewide program that provides education, counseling, mentorship and activities in Latinx culture, and RISE, which is a support program for first-generation and/or historically underrepresented students. As an HSI, Sierra will have access to grants that may be used to strengthen its existing support structure and offer additional programs and services.

Puente Program coordinator and counselor/History professor, Dr. Reyes Ortega, summed up Sierra’s designation as follows: “For Latinos, the phrase Si Se Puede (translated as ‘Yes, it can be done’ or ‘Yes, we can’) serves as a source of pride, hope and inspiration. Achieving national status as a Hispanic Serving Institution brings wonderful opportunities to our District and a recognition that truly reflects Sierra's value to create a sense of community and belonging for our historically underrepresented students and service area community.”

The HSI program is a division of the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) program through the US Office of Civil Rights. MSIs are defined as institutions of higher education that serve minority populations; they are unique both in mission and day-to-day operations. Increasing participation in the HSI program is a part of the White House initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics which was established by President George H.W. Bush in 1990 and renewed by President Barack Obama in 2010. The purpose of the initiative is to increase awareness of educational inequalities that persist, and to communicate and share programs and resources to ensure more Latinx students enroll in and complete college.