The University of Colorado Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus are the state’s first research universities to earn a federal designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, unlocking access to millions of dollars in federal grants to help increase graduation rates and build more inclusive cultures.
The federal designation is designed to support an institution’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion, as well benefit the workforce by increasing graduation rates. To qualify for the status, a university must have an undergraduate full-time enrollment of at least 25 percent Hispanic students and a high concentration of students eligible for federal Pell grants.
With the designation, CU Denver and Anschutz Medical Campus (University of Colorado) become the fourth public four-year university in the state with Hispanic Serving Institution status. They join Adams State University, Colorado State University Pueblo and Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“I am proud of the diversity of our student body and we will continue our important work of fostering an inclusive campus,” said CU Denver Chancellor Michelle Marks. “This designation gives CU Denver the opportunity to give our students stronger support so they can earn their degrees and pursue meaningful careers.”
The recognition means that the universities are eligible to compete for substantial grants to support Hispanic student services and infrastructure improvements that will benefit both campuses. Money from grants can target graduation, student retention, additional staff, faculty development, summer programs, and more, according to the university.
Additionally, the university said the money will help CU Denver create a more inclusive culture, a major plank in its 2030 Strategic Plan. It calls for the institution to provide a racially and culturally enhancing educational and work environment and a sense of belonging for all. Full-time students at public four-year HSIs are much more likely to graduate, according to the American Council on Education.
The designation is about creating better systems, processes and policies — as well as removing barriers — in order to positively impact all students, said Antonio Farias, CU Denver’s vice chancellor for diversity, equity and inclusion.
The designation is “very specific to Hispanic students but they will help everybody,” he said.
“As (students) move through their experience, every step of the way, every office that they engage with, gives them a sense of belonging. For me, belonging means you create cultural connection.”
Farias said that means Latinx culture is validated and reflected in curriculum — through having a more diverse staff — and where students are not seen as a deficit but instead are seen as bringing a cultural awareness that in the past has been neglected.
Officials said it’s likely the designation will have ripple effects into the school’s faculty and staff, into curriculum, and into the broader community of Colorado. Farias said CU Denver graduates, who more often than not stay in Colorado, will not just become future workers — but also future leaders with significant cultural skills specific to understanding the Latinx community.
“It means that now when policy decisions are being made about education or health disparities, this is already something that’s built into the everyday fabric of our policy makers and our corporate CEOs and our corporate partners here in Colorado,” Farias said.
Latinos are expected to comprise more than one-third of the total population and workforce of Colorado by 2050, which makes this designation all the more important, according to officials.
“This designation is a point of pride for our campus, and important recognition of our commitment to educating a diverse student body of future leaders in medicine and health,” said Donald M. Elliman, Jr., chancellor of the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus.
He said the medical campus, which includes University of Colorado health professional schools, more than 60 centers and institutes, and two independent hospitals, is dedicated to building a workforce that represents the communities it serves. It will allow the campus to build upon existing programs and partnerships that focus on Latinx/Hispanic students who are seeking professional degrees in STEM and health careers.
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