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Columbia needs to wait until 2025 to apply for federal grant funding as Hispanic-serving institution

Alex Suarez

Even though more than a quarter of the college’s student body is now Hispanic, the college will have to wait until next year to apply for grant funding from the Department of Education.

That’s because the application that was due in February requires enrollment numbers from 2021 when the college had not yet met the criteria for HSI status. 

“We did not deprioritize these opportunities, nor did we miss a deadline,” said Lambrini Lukidis, associate vice president of Strategic Communications and External Relations. “The college is not yet eligible to apply for these grants under current guidelines, but we will be soon.”

Lukidis said the college’s most current enrollment data indicates that they meet those criteria, as the 2024 application directs institutions to use 2021 enrollment data to assess their eligibility.

The college’s Hispanic student population has been growing since 2019 when it was 18.6%. In Fall 2023, it climbed to 28.2% of 6,529 students, according to Columbia’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness.

In 2022, the college met the eligibility requirement for an HSI institution with at least 25% of the student body identifying as Hispanic. That made Columbia eligible to be a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which offers access to internships, scholarships, college retention and advancement programs, pre-collegiate support and career development opportunities and programs.

But it will have to wait another year to apply for federal funds.

The Title V-HSI grant is a five-year, federal competitive grant for eligible Hispanic-serving institutions. With the grant, an HSI institution receives supplemental funding to build its capacity to achieve higher levels of success among its Hispanic student population through student programs and faculty professional development.

The college must form a committee to begin the application process for the Title V program, which provides grant funding, from the Department of Education. 

Senior Associate Provost Nathan Bakkum told the Chronicle that the college was delayed in forming that committee because of the strike and work on the President and CEO Kwang Wu-Kim’s Draft Advisory Report. The report, released on Feb. 28, was requested by the Board of Trustees to address the $38 million deficit.

“We want to be sure that we marshal the expertise and enthusiasm of our dedicated faculty and staff to ensure a successful HSI application,” he said. 

To be deemed eligible for the Titles III and V grant programs, HSI colleges have to show a high population of needy students and low core expenses per full-time equivalent students. Core expenses are the expenses for the essential education activities of the institution and include the cost of instruction, research, public service, academic support, student services, institutional support, scholarships and fellowships, or net grant aid to students.

Jason Cottrell, lead research analyst at the Department of Education, told the Chronicle that the college met that criteria. 

Another qualification is to have an enrollment of at least 25% Hispanic students at the end of the award year immediately prior to the date of application. Columbia met that requirement for this year, but the college’s spring enrollment saw a 12% decrease from 6,529 in the Fall 2023 semester to 5,757. Columbia is expected to lose another 1,000 students by Fall 2024, as the Chronicle previously reported.

“Crossing the 25% enrollment threshold is a significant milestone, but ‘being an HSI’ means demonstrating that we are making a sustained effort to serve our Hispanic students. We look forward to conveying a group soon to engage with this important work,” Bakkum said.

Steve Brizuela Fernandez, president of Latino Alliance and a senior music business major, hopes that the college is able to apply for the HSI distinction, “especially seeing how drastically different the school’s demographic has become.” 

As the president of a student organization that emphasizes Latinx culture and provides a space for the community, he hopes that Hispanic students “get what they need” from the school.

Carmelo Esterrich, associate professor in the Department of Humanities, History and Social Sciences, teaches courses in Latin American studies.

He said having this distinction has many advantages for students and could attract more Hispanic students to the college. “It’s a little frustrating that the college is not taking advantage of that at a moment where student retention is paramount,” he said. 

Esterrich, who is Puerto Rican, added that there is tension and anxiety about how many students are going to come back next semester and believes the distinction would have been an incentive for keeping Latinx-identifying students. 


Copy Edited by Myranda Diaz.


This story has been corrected. 

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About the Contributors
Miranda Bucio
Miranda Bucio, Former Campus Editor
mbucio@columbiachronicle.com   Miranda Bucio is a senior journalism major and reports primarily on Columbia's Latino Student Alliance. She has also reported on city film festivals, Student Government Elections and metro restaurants. Bucio worked for the Chronicle from August 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: Riverside, Illinois
Alex Suarez
Alex Suarez, Former Creative Director
asuarez@columbiachronicle.com   Alex Suarez is a senior traditional animation major and has created graphics for Chronicle stories in various sections. She worked for the Chronicle from August 2023 through May 2024.   Hometown: Hebron, Indiana