On Sep. 18, Elgin Community College helped celebrate Latinx Heritage Month by inviting seven Hispanic Serving Institutions to set up tables in the Jobe Lounge. An HSI is an accredited, nonprofit institution of higher education with 25% or more Hispanic full-time undergraduates.
“[Being an HSI] helps [students]to feel welcomed, knowing that they’re not alone, [and] knowing that there is going to be help and resources there to guide them…to earn their degree,” said Assistant Director of Transfer Admission & Bilingual Outreach at Dominican University Ricardo Aguilera.
Transfer Admissions Counselor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, Japneet Wahi is proud to be part of such a diverse and progressive school. In 2016 UIC opened the first cultural center serving Arab Americans on a college campus in the United States.
“UIC is a very diverse school and we’re really proud of that,” Wahi said. “I’m hoping to have even more cultural centers open up at UIC and more accessibility to students of different backgrounds.”
Luvia Moreno, director of undocumented students at Northeastern Illinois University, was sure to make it clear that being an HSI alone does not mean the school gives special assistance to Latino students.
“HSI’s were not created to serve Latino students, they become HSI’s by default as Latino students start attending the institution,” Moreno said, “It doesn’t necessarily mean that they fully serve or that their mission is to serve Latino students.”
Northeastern Illinois University was the first public school in the state of Illinois to become an HSI, yet according to Moreno, most students don’t know what that means.
“If you ask a student what is an HSI, they probably won’t know what it is and they’ve never heard of it,” Moreno said. “It actually matters more to the institutions because by being… [an HSI they] can then apply for federal funding to provide support to Latino students, but also other students who are low income…It benefits the entire campus when you become an HSI.”
As Latinx Heritage Month comes to an end it is important to not forget one question.
“How do we better serve Latino students?” Moreno said. “My hope would be that HSI’s have more in their mission… [to] serve these students. The work that universities and colleges do, part of it should be to pay special attention to Latino students and ensure they graduate.”