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Minority-Serving Institutions & Access to International Education

Thursday, December 5, 2019  
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The United States is home to more than 500 Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI’s) including: Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU’s), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI’s), and Tribal Colleges & Universities (TCU’s). While open to students from all backgrounds, MSI’s occupy an important space within higher education, especially in the context of increasing access to educational opportunities. This blog post intends to highlight some of the trends, research, and debate specific to MSI’s in the context of internationalism.

Currently, there are more than 100 HBCU’s in the U.S. According to the US Department of Education, an HBCU is defined as “…any historically black college or university that was established prior to 1964, whose principal mission was, and is, the education of black Americans…” Despite President Obama’s 2010 executive order renewing the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities, controversy over the Potential Contraction of HBCUs has been making headlines. At the highest national level, however, the historical significance of these institutions, as well as the present-day role they can play to address inequities in the education system continues to prevail. Specific to international education, the American Council on Education (ACE) published a report, Creating Global Citizens: Challenges and Opportunities for Internationalization at HBCU’s, detailing the comprehensive internationalization efforts at several of the country’s HBCU’s. The report was compiled to serve as a resource for other HBCU’s as they internationalize their campuses. Not surprisingly-- given the well-documented underfunding of MSI’s -- the report indicated a need for additional financial and human resources to support successful internationalization efforts.

The National Center for Education Statistics lists more than 30 TCU’s within the U.S. For Native students studying at non-Tribal Colleges & Universities, some schools are working to identify appropriate means to help Native American students feel at “home” on the campus. This can be difficult, especially, when Native students constitute a small percentage of a large student body. Many Native students are more comfortable attending a TCU because of the efforts made to preserve native traditions and language. Likewise, reports indicate that student success at TCU’s, when compared to Native students at non-TCU’s, is high. Recognizing the important role of TCU’s and other K-12 educational institutions in native communities, President Obama recently announced the Generation Indigenous Initiative, an effort to support Native youth as they prepare for college and future careers. Anne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education, noted that TCU’s “do an extraordinary job, often on a shoestring budget, in what they are doing to transform lives to empower the next generation of leaders in a whole host of fields, including our future educators.” In 2012-2013, only .5% of the almost 290,000 U.S. students who participated in study abroad identified as American Indian or Alaska Native. Given this statistic, it is incumbent upon the international education community to consider new ways to reach out to Native students and TCU’s.

HSI’s are defined in federal law (the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA), Title V, 2008) as accredited, degree-granting, public or private nonprofit institutions of higher education with 25% or more total undergraduate Hispanic full-time equivalent (FTE) student enrollment (Excelencia in Education). In 2012-2013, the HSI Center at Excelencia in Education, a national educational advocacy nonprofit, identified 370 HSIs in the U.S. within 15 states and Puerto Rico. California has the most HSIs (127), followed by Texas (68), and Puerto Rico (59). In an IndyStar article, Deborah Santiago, Chief Operating Officer and Vice President for Policy at Excelencia in Education, stated that “Latino students are much more likely to attend colleges where they make up at least one-quarter of the student body, such as the University of Texas at El Paso.” This assertion is also supported by the data: In 2012-2013, 59 percent of undergraduate Hispanic/Latino students were enrolled at MSI’s as compared to 46% twenty years ago (Excelencia in Education). Recent research out of Vanderbilt and Florida State University comparing graduation rates of Hispanic students with similar backgrounds, revealed roughly equivalent graduation rates at HSI’s as at non-HIS’s. This research seems to confront some of the predominant discourse claiming that MSI’s are not performing as well as their non-MSI counterparts.

Diversity Abroad is committed to working collaboratively with MSIs to increase access to and services for students on their campuses. As part of our involvement in the Generation Study Abroad initiative to double study abroad participation over the next 5 years, Diversity Abroad has announced plans to develop a capacity building program geared toward higher education professionals at MSIs. Annually, Diversity Abroad will bring together representatives from 7-10 MSI campuses to engage in virtual and in-person training sessions hosted in partnership with non-MSI Diversity Network member institutions. Additionally, through our annual Go Global Campus Tour (GGT), we will increase our campus visits to MSIs to provide information, resources, and training to students who may not readily have access to information about education abroad options. Each year over the next five years, we will add more diverse campuses (e.g., HBCUs, TCUs) to our campus visits providing pre-departure and returned student resources in the form of student presentations, tabling, and classroom visits.

MSIs, particularly HBCUs and HSIs, prepare and train the majority of African-American/Black and Hispanic/Latino professionals entering the workforce. As such, their engagement in doubling study abroad participation is critical to ensuring that the student population going abroad is also representative of the diversity of the U.S. population.