UC Santa Barbara
Paul Wellman (file)

UC Santa Barbara was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) as Latinos make up 27 percent of its undergraduate student population. Historically, UCSB had a reputation of being an overwhelmingly white school, and campus officials say the title demonstrates that the school has met its goal of making the student body more reflective of California’s demographics. UC Merced, UC Riverside, and UC Santa Cruz have also received HSI designation.

UCSB is the only school in the Association of American Universities to receive such designation, which requires that Latinos comprise at least a quarter of total enrollment, according to UCSB spokesperson Andrea Estrada.

In 2014, among incoming freshman, 75 percent of Hispanic students were first-generation college students compared to 32 percent of non-Hispanic students. Hispanic and non-Hispanic students had the same high school grade point averages, Estrada added. UCSB’s Chicano/Chicana Studies Department became the first to establish a doctoral program in the field.

“[I]t is not just a victory for Latinos,” said Black Studies and sociology professor George Lipsitz. “It would be a mistake to make it that small. Everyone benefits from the ways in which the HSI designation bolsters the university’s ability to blend cosmopolitan inclusion with academic excellence.”

The percentage of bachelor’s degrees awarded to Hispanic students has increased from 12 percent in 1999 to 22 percent in 2014, according to Estrada. UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang, who has seen the Hispanic student population grow from 11 to 27 percent during his 20-year tenure, said, “This milestone achievement reflects our vision and decades of collaborative effort and commitment to enhance excellence and diversity at UC Santa Barbara and to provide the best possible educational opportunities for all of our students.”

The HSI designation means UCSB can compete for grants and funding for various initiatives, including support services for all students, faculty development, and the purchase of lab equipment.

“It is incredible to see such a drastic turnaround from the 1970’s, where you could count the amount of Latinos attending a university with two hands,” Assemblymember Das Williams said in a statement. “This is a true reflection of the diversity that exists in the state of California. Higher Education is the path to the middle class.”


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