ASU named a Hispanic-Serving Institution by US Department of Education

Women in graduation caps and gowns wave at their families

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2022 year in review.

Arizona State University has been named a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the U.S. Department of Education, a major milestone in its enterprisewide commitment to increase the diversity of its student body.

The recognition reflects the university’s efforts to more holistically serve its community through a range of financial and academic support programs for current ASU students, K–12 outreach programs that strengthen the pipeline to college, and resources for the broader community.

“Arizona State University is wholly committed to enhancing access to quality learning for all students capable of performing college-level work,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “This meaningful designation recognizes our ongoing institutional efforts to support the success of students who reflect the demographic diversity of our state and, looking to the future, the growing Hispanic community that will play a major role in the economic advancement and competitiveness of our nation.” 

RELATED: ASU part of Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Research Universities formed to increase opportunity

ASU’s increased Hispanic enrollment reflects state and national population trends. According to Pew Research Center, Hispanics have accounted for more than half of total U.S. population growth since 2010. The median age of Hispanics living in Arizona is 28, and nearly half of the K–12 population identifies as Latino, making it even more crucial to support and prepare the state’s Latino population for college and career.

The U.S. Department of Education defines an HSI as an institution of higher education that has an enrollment of Hispanic undergraduate FTE (full-time equivalent) students that is at least 25% of the overall student body. In 2021, ASU’s Hispanic students made up 26% of the immersion (on-campus) undergraduate population, up from about 19% in fall 2011. ASU Online has also seen growth among Hispanic students, accounting for nearly 22% of total undergraduate online learners in fall 2021.

In terms of actual numbers of students, ASU has more than 16,840 Hispanic undergraduate students among its fall 2021 immersion population, compared with about 10,400 in fall 2011. When all students — undergrad and graduate, immersion and online — are included, ASU's Hispanic enrollment stands at more than 30,200 students, a big increase from the roughly 12,240 such students in fall 2011.

“While we are excited to see enrollment of Hispanic students continue to increase, we are even more proud that their retention and graduation rates continue to rise as well,” said Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost. “As a first-generation Latina graduate from ASU myself, it brings me great joy to see our community of talented and determined students thriving at ASU, and I look forward to the benefits that this university accomplishment will provide our academic community in the years to come.”

ASU has highly accomplished Latina leaders at the helm of two of the university's three “pillars” — Gonzales as the leader of the Academic Enterprise, which encompasses everything to do with degree-seeking students and the faculty who teach them; and Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of the Learning Enterprise, ASU’s lifelong learning ecosystem designed for all learners, from kindergartners to mid-career professionals to retired people.

“My Latina roots run deep, and they influence the passion that fuels the work I lead at ASU as we expand access to education by creating learning opportunities to meet the LatinxThe gender-neutral term for Latinos/as. community where they are,” Anguiano said. “Our learning experiences are designed for practical returns on the investments that our learners make in ASU. We understand the responsibility to help empower learners' upward mobility goals, their dreams for a family legacy of opportunity and the ability to thrive as ASU learners. As a first-generation college graduate, I am energized by our HSI designation as it reinforces the great work our colegas (colleagues) across the enterprise are doing to serve all learners.” 

While the university being an HSI is new (the West and Downtown Phoenix campuses had previously been recognized), ASU President Michael M. Crow was invited as a guest speaker at the “Arizona Briefing on 25 Years of Hispanic-Serving Institutions” symposium last March.

The event, hosted by Excelencia in Education, a Washington, D.C.-based organization that promotes Hispanic student success in higher education, awarded ASU its “Seal of Excelencia” in 2019, to acknowledge the university’s work toward supporting Hispanic students’ journeys to a bachelor’s degree — a reflection of the ASU Charter in which the university is “measured not by whom we exclude, but rather by whom we include and how they succeed.”

In addition to the support services for currently enrolled students, ASU offers resources for learners in the K–12 community to help with college preparedness. The WeGrad (formerly the American Dream Academy) and Hispanic Mother-Daughter programs are two such examples. Both offer bilingual programming, are geared toward middle and high school students and their families, and are designed to increase the number of first-generation Arizona students who are ready to enroll and succeed at ASU. 

Many participants in WeGrad and the Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program said they wouldn’t be where they are without these programs or their hard-working and supportive parents who encouraged them along the way.  

Jesus Amavizca Aldama, an ASU junior who is part of Barrett, The Honors College, came to Arizona when he was in high school, not knowing how to even begin the process of applying to university.  However, the value of college was never in doubt for Amavizca Aldama, as his family taught him the worth of higher education early on.

“My parents and grandparents have made sacrifices, and I recognize that the opportunity to be here, to go to college is incredible,” he said.

Amavizca Aldama’s grandmother, who came from a working-class background in Mexico, told him that education is his inheritance. Her words resonated. Today, Amavizca Aldama is a pre-med student hoping to go on to dental or medical school, and he is heavily involved in several ASU organizations. He serves as the vice president of SPARKS, a student-led service group dedicated to increasing college readiness of K–12 students, and as an ambassador for WeGrad.

Andrea Amavisca (no relation to Amavizca Aldama), an environmental engineering and math student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU, said she is so grateful for the WeGrad Program, as it sparked her mom’s investment in not only her daughter’s academic career, but also the academic paths of other families.

Today, her mom teaches dozens of Latino parents, families and students in the WeGrad program to understand things like: what classes students need to take in high school so that they can be eligible to go to ASU, the requirements to go to college, the SATs and how to apply for financial aid.

“These are all things my mom had no idea about before she got involved with WeGrad,” Amavisca said. “It became an expectation that I would graduate from both high school and college. And now it’s an expectation that I'm going to earn my master’s, and I feel like it's very attainable and that I can do it.”

Amavisca — who is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College — credits her mom and dad for where she is today.

“I feel very blessed as I know not everyone has the support of their parents or families,” she said.

Another example of tailored learning opportunities is ASU’s partnership with Latino-led nonprofit SUMA Wealth on bootcamps that teach fundamental financial knowledge in an engaging, culturally relevant way using SUMA’s signature mix of content, community and suite of financial technology tools. ASU validates the educational achievements of the Dinero Bootcamp learners with a certificate of completion that can be used in resumes, portfolios and job applications. Learn more about the free bootcamps here.

A new website designed to serve as a central resource capturing the numerous support services and academic programs available to the ASU community as an official HSI, recently launched. The site also features diverse voices of Latino students, faculty and partners and a directory with a strong focus on mentorship.

Deyanira Galaviz-Arguelles, a first-generation student studying tourism development management at ASU, shared some advice for fellow Latino students navigating their way either to or through the university.

“If there was one piece of advice I’d give to Latinx students, it’d be to get out there. Get involved in what you can. Don’t be scared to ask questions.”

Top photo: Nursing graduate Gia Quintero (left) and biological sciences graduate Marianna Leon Ramirez wave to their loved ones during the Hispanic Convocation at Desert Financial Arena on May 13, 2022, on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

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