Hispanic-Serving Institutions Help Get Students Over Finish Line

Advocates for equal access to education say college rankings traditionally prioritize characteristics such as selectivity and prestige over student success and outcomes. But a new economic-mobility index incorporates data pointed such as return on investment for low-income students and percentage of Pell-eligible students enrolled.

Dr. Fernando Delgado, president of CUNY Lehman College, noted the university is located in the north Bronx, and nearly half its students are first-generation, more than 80% are Hispanic or Black and more than half are Pell recipients. He said the new indicator provides more useful information to them.

“We are by and large an institution of, by and for the Bronx,” Delgado explained. “Economic mobility and being an economic driver is a key component of a student’s perception of why they are going to go to college and why they would choose Lehman.”

Lehman College ranks ninth according to the economic mobility index. It’s one of the more than 550 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) across the nation often playing a large role in helping low-income students over the finish line.

Delgado added many of Lehman’s students struggle to access basic needs such as food and transportation. And he pointed out Lehman has no student housing, which means students have to navigate New York’s lack of affordable housing.

“We can hold down our prices, we can increase our scholarships, we can increase summer funding or work study jobs on campus,” Delgado outlined. “But we can’t control what the external market does in New York City in terms of housing prices.”

Even as HSIs work to increase outreach and access, Hispanic enrollment in higher education fell by 5% during the height of the pandemic. And enrollment among first-time Hispanic college students dropped by nearly 20%.

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.

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