Las Vegas Sun

September 19, 2019

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How higher Latino numbers are helping Las Vegas’ colleges

The College of Southern Nevada announced Monday that it has become the state’s first Hispanic-Serving Institution, a federal recognition that helps schools qualify for millions in federal funding.

The designation is given to colleges and universities where Hispanics make up at least a quarter of the student body. It aims boost the academic success of those students.

CSN’s new status is the latest manifestation of Latinos’ growing influence in the Las Vegas Valley, and its benefits extend well past the school’s three campuses.

Here’s what the title means for CSN and Southern Nevada:

The status can help CSN qualify for generous federal grants.

At a press conference Monday, CSN President Michael Richards said the school hasn’t yet applied for funding, but it could potentially be in the running for five-year grants adding up to more than $2.5 million.

Last year, 29 of the country’s 370 HSI institutions received an award, CSN officials said.

“First and foremost, it will provide programs and opportunities and services within the schools in CSN for Latino students, but the larger story is how this will positively impact the educational opportunities for all of CSN’s students,” said Leo Murrieta, national field director for the nonprofit Mi Familia Vota. “It will have an incredible impact on the whole community.”

CSN could serve as a model for other schools in Southern Nevada that are trying to get the same designation.

UNLV and Nevada State College are also working toward getting the HSI title. Both are considered “emerging HSIs,” and should soon meet the threshold to apply for the status.

“It’s very likely that in the next couple of years we’ll have two HSIs,” said Andres Ramirez, a political analyst in Las Vegas who specializes in Hispanic issues. “Within the next five to 10 years, there’s no reason why all three schools in Southern Nevada can’t reach the same status.”

UNLV’s student body is 24.9 percent Hispanic, and nearly 60 percent of its students report being part of a racial or ethnic minority. About 20 percent of NSC’s students are Hispanic.

All three schools plan to seek education grants through HSI designation.

“In a state where we’re struggling with budget funding,” Ramirez said, “this could really position us to get help.”

The designation shows Latinos are narrowing achievement gaps in Southern Nevada.

The Clark County School District’s student body is largely Latino, yet that ethnic group’s graduation rate traditionally has lagged behind that of others. Still, that rate has improved in recent years, and higher Latino numbers at the community college indicate those same graduates are likely continuing their education locally.

“We, as Latinos, were having a hard time just graduating high school. We can’t get students to college if they don’t get past graduation,” Ramirez said. “Now larger pools are getting into college. We’re getting there.”

One caveat: Those improved Latino numbers are partly attributed to better tracking and reporting practices both at CCSD and at CSN (where 8 percent of students had been declining to report their ethnicity before administrators reached out to them).

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