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Research / HSI Definition 

Hispanic-Serving Institution Definitions

Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) are defined in Title V of the Higher Education Act as not-for-profit institutions of higher learning with a full-time equivalent (FTE) undergraduate student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. The federal definition can be found here:

HACU maintains two lists of HSIs based on differing definitions for differing uses, either advocacy or membership.

1. For HACU's advocacy and research purposes, the "List of HSIs" follows the criteria set forth in Title V of the Higher Education Act.

  • HACU is sometimes asked for an "official" list of Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).  Unfortunately, no such list is produced by the Department of Education or the Federal government. 
  • In the absence of there being an "official" HSI list, the HACU List of HSIs follows the federal definition. This list is developed using data from the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).
  • In following this definition, HACU has only included non-profit institutions that are eligible for Title IV (federal student financial aid) funding.
  • Additionally, since institutional Hispanic enrollment percentage needs to be calculated, HACU has developed a custom file by calculating the undergraduate full-time equivalent (FTE), as defined by IPEDS, by race/ethnicity. Further calculation is done to determine the Hispanic FTE enrollment of each institution.
  • Federal definition requires that institutions meet a 25.0% Hispanic FTE threshold; therefore, HACU only includes institutions that meet the 25.0% minimum.

2. For HACU’s membership purposes, HSIs are defined as colleges, universities, or systems/districts where total Hispanic enrollment constitutes a minimum of 25% of the total headcount enrollment. 

  • “Total Enrollment” includes full-time and part-time students at the undergraduate or graduate level (including professional schools) of the institution, or both (i.e., headcount of for-credit students). 
  • Member enrollment statistics are self reported by the institution for the fall semester of the year prior to the membership year.  For example, year 2009 members provide Fall 2008 enrollment statistics. 
  • HACU’s HSI member institutions are listed on HACU’s website.
Previously, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Education would publish a list of Postsecondary Minority Institutions at: They also have a link to an outdated list of "High Hispanic Enrollment" institutions at However, since that list was last updated in 2008 and includes non-profit and for-profit institutions, it is not a reliable listing of HSIs.

Listing as an HSI by HACU, on either list, does not “certify” an institution as an HSI for Title V or other Federal grant purposes.  Title V eligibility (i.e., meeting the Federal definition of an HSI) is determined by the U.S. Department of Education as the first step in the application process for a Title V grant.  Specifically, if your college or university has (1) a full-time equivalent (FTE) enrollment of undergraduate students that is at least 25 percent Hispanic students and (2) not less than 50 percent of all students are eligible for need-based Title IV aid, it should be an “eligible institution” for Title V.

Eligibility designation qualifies an institution of higher education to receive grants under the Title V and Title III, Part A, Programs, provided certain other program-specific eligibility requirements are met. Title V authorizes the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. Title III, Part A, authorizes the Strengthening Institutions, American Indian Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities, and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions Programs. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Institutional Development and Undergraduate Education Service administers both programs. Visit their website for additional information. In particular, visit the Title V Program Statute for legislation about Title V.