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2024’s Top Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) for Online Master’s Students

To better support Latino students, many colleges and universities have gained recognition as Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs). This guide explores today’s best HSIs offering flexible online master’s degree programs.

Author: Marcella Ellsworth

Editor: Staff Editor

A woman in a white top and colorful headband works on her laptop at an outdoor table, surrounded by trees on a sunny day.

While each generation of the U.S. population is more educated than the last, educational gaps between different races and ethnicities persist. This is especially true for the highest education levels, where racial inequality is the worst — particularly for Hispanic and Latino students. In 2022, 34% of master’s degree grads identified as white, while only 3% identified as Hispanic/Latino. Considering that nearly 20% of the U.S. population is Hispanic/Latino, this is a significant educational gap — one that research suggests has been increasing since 2018.

Many universities are working to bridge this gap by providing more opportunities and resources for Hispanic/Latino students. As a result of these efforts, certain schools have earned the prestigious designation of “Hispanic-Serving Institution” (HSI). The U.S. Department of Education recognizes HSIs as colleges and universities that have an undergraduate enrollment of at least 25% Hispanic students. These schools receive federal funding to support programs that serve Hispanic and Latino students, faculty, and staff.

The work of HSIs is serving to level the educational playing field by embracing and empowering diverse cultures as a means of closing the gap. One way they are accomplishing this is by providing more online graduate degrees to save on costs and provide more flexibility to working grad students.

If you’re considering earning an online master’s degree from an HSI, use this guide to explore the top 20 Hispanic-serving Institutions, all of which were chosen based on merit, affordability, and the student services they offer.

Today’s Best HSIs Offering Online Master’s Degrees

Attending an HSI can have many benefits, including lower tuition costs, greater access to financial aid for low-income students, and more student-run research opportunities. These institutions also tend to offer more bilingual services, cultural and networking events, career development opportunities, diverse student organizations, and other resources and supports for LatinX students.

Still, choosing the best HSI to earn your online master’s degree from can be tricky. To help you, our experts reviewed 2020-2021 data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) to determine the best Hispanic-Serving Institutions for online master’s degree students. Our ratings are based on:

  • The school’s overall percentage of Hispanic students (graduate and undergraduate),
  • The amount of Hispanic graduate students, and
  • The number of master’s degree awarded to Hispanic students.

After crunching the numbers, we distilled the list down into universities with robust online master’s degree programs. With that said, here’s your list of the best HSIs for online master’s students in 2024.

#1: University of Texas, Rio Grande Valley

Logo of the University of Rio Grande Valley, featuring the letters "UTRGV" in dark green and orange colors with a modern, stylized font design.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 94%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 4,324
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 1,511

With a high number of Hispanic students and a dedication to forward-thinking HSI programs, The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) is an excellent HSI for online master’s students. In 2023, the UTRGV Center for Mexican American Studies (CMAS) was awarded a $2.9 million grant by the U.S. Department of Education to enhance the school’s academic offerings, program quality, and overall institutional stability.

With 25 fully online master’s programs to choose from, you can pursue a master’s degree in various areas of studies at UTGRV. Tuition for in-state graduate students is listed at $9,459 for 10 credit hours per semester. Out-of-state students who are also enrolled in 10 hours per semester may pay up to $17,859.

According to the school’s website, UTRGV won’t increase tuition rates or fees for the first four years of study. Tuition costs are also capped at 12 semester credit hours — meaning anything more than that is free.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MEd in Bilingual Education: Biliteracy Specialization 36 $16,848 $31,968
MS in Engineering Management 30 $14,040 $26,640
MA in Spanish Translation and Interpreting 36 $16,848 $31,968

#2: Florida International University (FIU)

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 70%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 5,809
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 1,806

Florida National University (FIU) earned the Seal of Excelencia in Education — meaning it’s committed to increasing the number of Latino students who earn a college degree. Graduate students at FIU can choose from 45 online graduate programs, including accounting, computer engineering, and criminal justice, among others.

Online students will have access to technical support, virtual tutoring sessions, and free software resources. That also includes academic advising, internships, and career placement opportunities. Tuition varies for online graduate students, with lower cost per credit for most programs if you’re a Florida resident.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MS in Curriculum and Instruction,

Elementary Education

36 $18,300 $18,300
MS in Finance 36 $33,000 $36,600
MS in Forensic Science 32 $15,541 $33,013

#3: The University of Texas at El Paso

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 89%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,638
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 740

According to an institutional article, the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) was recently awarded a $7 million grant from the National Science Foundation, making it a “center of thought leadership for Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) across the country.” Additionally, it’s considered an R1 research university and was ranked fourth in Texas for federal research expenditures at public universities.

Students enrolled at UTEP can choose from 18 online master’s degree programs within various fields including business administration, construction management, and nursing, among others.

The school offers numerous minority-focused scholarships including the AAA Minority Dissertation Fellowship for Underrepresented Persons in Anthropology, the Minority Fellowship Program, and the Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
Master of Defense & Strategic Studies 36 $17,640 $20,700
MAEd in Diversity, Equity and Social Justice 30 $14,700 $17,250
MAEd, STEM Education 30 $14,700 $17,250

#4: National University

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 37%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 3,702
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 1,313

National University (NU) is committed to closing the education gaps in underserved populations, with the number of students who identify as Hispanic steadily increasing year over year. Additionally, NU recently received a $4 million grant for its NU Peer Navigator Network, allowing students at all degree levels to get help from experienced classmates who can personally relate to their diverse and unique backgrounds.

NU offers a total of 52 master’s degree programs, from a Master of Arts (MA) in Social Emotional Learning to a Master of Science in Nursing. Graduate tuition for most online courses is estimated at $663 per credit. NU encourages students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to receive financial aid. Additionally, you can apply to various institutional scholarships or to the Federal Work Study Program.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
Master of Accounting (MAcc) 45 $29,835
MA in Psychology 30 $19,890
MBA 36 $23,868

#5: Nova Southeastern University

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 35%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 4,565
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 813

Nova Southeastern University (NSU) is recognized as Florida’s largest private research university and one of the top 65 most diverse colleges in the country. More than 22,000 students are enrolled at NSU, and of those, 62% are from racial or ethnic backgrounds.

This school offers a total of 275 degree programs, including 50 online master’s degree programs. NSU has also offered $220 million in scholarships and has partnered with more than 100 corporations that offer students various internship and networking opportunities, according to the school’s website. The cost of attendance varies by program, but a flat rate applies to online tuition regardless of where you live.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MS in Computer Science 30 $29,070
MS in Human Resource Management 31 $32,767
MS in Criminal Justice 30 $26,580

#6: California State University, Los Angeles

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 75%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,255
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 566

The California State University (CSU) system prides itself on having a diverse student body; according to the school’s website, nearly half of the student population are from underrepresented minority groups. CSU Los Angeles ranks the highest among diversity for Latino/Hispanic students, while the average between all 25 CSU campuses is around 48%.

Regardless of their campus location, students enrolled in the CSU system can choose from an array of online master’s degree programs. Between its 25 campuses, the CSU system offers master’s degrees in 258 areas of study. To pay for your schooling, you’re encouraged to apply for FAFSA or the California Dream Act Application (CADAA). There are also numerous scholarships available.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Cost/Credit Est. Tuition
MA in Humanities 33 $818 $26,994
MA in Early Childhood Education 36 $347 $12,492
MS in Computer Engineering 30 $911 $27,330

#7: University of Texas at Arlington

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 33%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,275
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 817

In 2023, the University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) launched its Hispanic-Serving Institution initiatives, which emphasizes six areas of focus that showcase the school’s dedication to diversity and inclusivity including cultural events, grant funding, and academic engagement, among others.

From nursing to social work, UTA offers students 11 different master’s degree programs, all of which can be completed entirely online.

Additionally, the UTA graduate school offers students financial support through paid assistantships, fellowships, scholarships and grants. That includes access to the school’s Mav ScholarShop, which lists various scholarships such as the $1,500 College of Education Endowed Scholarship.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MSN in Nursing Administration 36 $17,800
MS in Learning Analytics 36 $22,000
MEd in Curriculum and Instruction – Literacy Studies 30 As low as $11,000 (including scholarships)

#8: Texas A&M International University

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 91%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 994
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 389

According to Diverse Magazine, Texas A&M International University (TAMIU) was named as one of the nation’s top degree producers for Hispanic-serving institutions. The school’s website notes that serving underserved populations in South Texas was part of the university’s founding mission.

TAMIU graduate students can choose from 32 different online graduate-level degree programs, from an MBA to an MSN. Students also have access to financial aid, scholarships and campus jobs. In fact, nearly 96% of students receive some sort of financial aid.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
MS in School Counseling 48 $17,616
MS in Bilingual Education – Curriculum & Instruction 33 $12,111
MS in Information Science 33 $12,111

#9: Ana G. Mendez University

The logo of Ana G. Méndez University (AGM), featuring red text for "AGM" and the full university name underneath, with two interlocking circles on the left side in red.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 98%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,117
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 113

Ana G. Mendez University (AGMU) promotes innovation, entrepreneurship, research, and an appreciation and respect for diversity. The school offers a wide variety of academic programs in Spanish, English, and bilingual through various modalities using emerging and innovative technologies.

Graduate students can enroll in 18 online master’s degree programs. The university notes that 87% of graduate students are enrolled exclusively in online courses, while only 11% attend in-person classes.

Tuition for graduate courses is listed as $495 per credit for U.S. and international students, while Puerto Rico students will pay $260 per credit. To help students afford their education, AGMU offers a variety of financial aid funds such as grants, federal work study programs, and loans for eligible students.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident/International)
Est. Tuition
(Puerto Rico)
MBA in International Business – Latin America 48 $23,760 $12,480
MA in Public Relations 33 $16,335 $8,580
MEd Teaching of English as a Second Language (TESOL) 39 $19,305 $10,140

#10: University of La Verne

Logo of the University of La Verne featuring the institution's name in bold dark green letters.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 62%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,347
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 389

The University of La Verne is dedicated to diversity; as a reflection of this commitment, it recently announced a partnership with Google’s HSI Career Readiness Program to train 200,000 Latino students in digital skills — all by next year. The program provides HSI career centers with funding and a semester-long, in-person and online digital skills program.

The university offers several online master’s degree programs, including an MBA for Experienced Professionals; MS in Child and Adolescent Development; and a Master of Health Administration (MHA), among others. Student support services include academic advisement and lifelong access to the school’s library and its services.

The University of La Verne also prides itself on affordability. Part-time students can receive tuition awards of up to $300 per academic term and up to $1,200 per term for full-time students. Tuition awards are also extended to eligible employees and their spouses.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MS in Leadership and Management 33-36 $30,855-$33,660
MS in Child and Adolescent Development 33 $26,400
MBA for Experienced Professionals 33 $30,855

#11: CUNY, Lehman College

Logo of Lehman College featuring stylized text "Lehman College" in blue and green colors with an abstract book design above the text.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 56%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,026
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 349

Lehman College is CUNY’s only senior college with a Hispanic-majority undergraduate population, and it has a significant Black student population as well. It’s located in the Bronx, the poorest borough of New York City and the second poorest county in the states, according to the college’s website.

It offers five online master’s degree programs, including (among others) an MA in Health Education and Promotion and an MS in Organizational Leadership. It also offers a variety of student services, from tutoring to mental health counseling to virtual support.

The cost of tuition for graduate students is roughly $470 per credit for New York residents and $855 for non-residents, with some variation depending on degree. The school offers various scholarships, from the Lehman College Academic Scholarship to the Native American Scholarship Aid.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MS in Organizational Leadership 30 $14,100 $25,650
MS in Education in Health Teacher Pre-K–12 39 $18,330 $33,345
MS in Business – HR Management or International Business 30 $14,100 $25,650

#12: University of New Mexico

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 47%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,092
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 343

The University of New Mexico (UNM) is not only a Hispanic-Serving Institution, but it is also recognized as a Minority Institution, meaning its enrollment of minorities exceeds 50% of the total enrollment.

Online students can choose from 18 different master’s degree programs, ranging from an MS in Mechanical Engineering with a focus on Space Systems Engineering to an MA in Chicana and Chicano Studies.

Online courses are offered both synchronously and asynchronously, giving students the flexibility to create their own schedules. They also have access to discussion boards, web conferencing and other multimedia technologies to help them access course content and network with instructors and other classmates.

The cost of attendance for graduate students varies depending on field of study. The university also offers accelerated online programs (AOPs) with a flat tuition rate, regardless of residency. Last year, more than $147 million in scholarship money was awarded to UNM students.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MA in Chicana & Chicano Studies 33 $11,526 $37,477
Master of Civil Engineering (MEng) 33 $17,602 N/A (AOP program)
MS in Mechanical Engineering (MSME) – Space Systems Engineering 34 $18,135 N/A (AOP program)

#13: Texas A&M University

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 57%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,610
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 381

Texas A&M University reached HSI status in March 2022, giving the school access to certain grants funded by the U.S. Department of Education to help improve academic quality, institutional management, and fiscal stability. The school notes that obtaining HSI status will help the university promote, support, and advance HSI-related research and proposals and expand faculty and programs.

The university offers more than 50 different online master’s degree programs, with courses available both synchronously and asynchronously. Online students also have access to an array of services that include the university’s Career Center, where students can explore various fields of study, learn to write a proper resume, and sign up for job shadowing.

The cost of attendance depends on the various academic departments within the university. You can use the school’s tuition calculator to estimate costs or research specific departments. Graduate students can apply to assistantships, fellowships, and scholarships through the school.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MS in Construction Management (Non-Thesis) 36 $33,212 $52,706
Master of Laws in Cross-Border Advocacy 24 $27,060 $27,060
MEd in Curriculum and Instruction 36 $16,343 $35,837

#14: California Baptist University

Logo featuring the letters "CBU" in dark blue, with a stylized gold icon of a church topped with a cross to the left of the letters.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 42%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,362
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 466

California Baptist University was first designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution in 2011. Since then, the Hispanic student population has grown to more than 40%. Recently, the school secured a $3 million grant to launch a new program, Preparados para el Exito (Prepared for Success), aimed at improving educational outcomes for Hispanic and low-income students.

Currently, the school offers 13 online master’s degree programs, from organizational leadership to healthcare administration and beyond.

Tuition costs vary per degree program. However, students can apply for various forms of financial aid, including Lancer Loyalty Graduate School Grant, which ranges from $500 to $3,000. The grant is awarded to graduate students based on academic merit, financial need, and the graduate program they enroll in.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MS in Accounting 30 $20,640
MS in Kinesiology 30 $20,010
MA in Strategic Communication 30 $17,400

#15: University of Central Florida

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 29%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,046
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 524

For the past four years, the University of Central Florida (UCF) has been aspiring to be a leading Hispanic-Serving Institution in the nation. The school embraces asset-based and culturally responsive practices that enable it to provide meaningful collegiate experiences for all students.

Graduate students enrolled at the UCF can choose from a large selection of master’s degree programs, totaling 48 different programs. In terms of tuition, Florida residents pay $327.32 per credit hour for a UCF online master’s degree program, while out-of-state residents pay $1,151.72 per credit hour.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MS in Aerospace Engineering 30 $9,820 $34,552
MS in Hospitality and Tourism Management 33 $10,802 $38,007
MS in Criminal Justice 36 $11,784 $41,462

#16: New Mexico State University

Logo of New Mexico State University featuring its initials "NMSU" in maroon with the tagline "Be BOLD. Shape the Future." and the full name of the university beneath it.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 62%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 968
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 277

New Mexico State University (NMSU) is ranked among the top 100 institutions for Hispanic students by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. In total, graduate students can choose from 23 master’s degree programs that can help propel them in the right direction within their careers.

Generally, all graduate students pay a fixed tuition rate of $444.40 per credit hour, and payment plans are available. Students also have access to multiple types of federal and state financial aid, including scholarships, through the school’s Scholar Dollar$ application system.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MSN in Leadership and Administration 32 $14,221
MA in Spanish 36 $15,998
MA in Economics 30 $13,332

#17: University of the Incarnate Word

Logo of the University of the Incarnate Word featuring a red stylized church tower above the name written in bold, black uppercase letters.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 59%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,078
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 291

The University of the Incarnate Word (UIW) is considered one of the largest Catholic universities in Texas and is recognized as one of the top faith-based universities nationwide for its graduation rate among undergraduate Hispanic students.

UIW offers graduate students eight different degree programs at the master’s level — with six options delivered in English and two degrees in Spanish. Additionally, UIW offers a variety of student services including academic advising, support services, and study assistance, among others.

Tuition is set at $1,100 per credit hour for graduate students, with some programs charging different rates depending on the department. Financial aid is available.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MBA – General Concentration 30-33 $33,000 – $36,300
MA in Criminal Justice Administration and Leadership 30 $33,000
MS in Organizational Development and Leadership 30 $33,000

#18: Texas State University

Logo of Texas State University featuring its name in serif font with a prominent star design in earthy red and gold colors.
  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 41%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,301
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 345

Texas State University has been recognized for its diversity-forward initiatives and was awarded the Seal of Excelencia by Excelencia in Education. The university lists various workshops throughout the year that help connect students to the Latino culture; for instance, last year, the school held a lecture on the impact of borders on communities.

Texas State University offers 14 online master’s degree programs, from an MA in Technical Communication to an MEd in Adult, Professional, and Community Education. Graduate tuition and fees are based on the student program, instructional method, and campus location.

In-state students pay roughly $357 per credit, while out-of-state students pay around $777. However, the school offers various scholarships and fellowships, including the $1,000 Graduate College Scholarship and Texas State Graduate and Doctoral Merit Fellowships.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
(Resident)
Est. Tuition
(Non-Resident)
MSW – Advanced Practice Leadership 36 $36,000 $66,240
MS in Public Health Education and Promotion 36 $36,000 $66,240
MS in Respiratory Care 36 $36,000 $66,240

#19: University of Arizona

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 29%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 2,144
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 427

The University of Arizona (UA) is the first four-year public university in the state to receive recognition as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. It is also one of 21 universities that joined the Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Research Universities, launched in 2022.

UA has 40 different master’s degree programs — offering one of the largest selections of graduate programs on this list.

Graduate tuition is charged per credit hour, and online students pay the same rate as residents. Costs range from $650 to $1,332 per credit hour for online graduate students. Financial aid is available, with a 2022 UA online survey finding that 62% of online students receive financial aid.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
Professional Science Master’s (PSM) in Applied Nutrition – Nutrition & Wellness 30 $19,500
MS in Entrepreneurship 30 $30,000
MA in Human Rights Practice 30 $15,000

#20: San Jose State University

  • Percentage of Hispanic students: 32%
  • Number of Hispanic graduate students: 1,915
  • Number of Hispanic master’s degree graduates: 462

San Jose State University has a long-standing commitment to diversity and inclusivity and has even obtained a grant to help educate the next generation of first-generation entrepreneurs by expanding opportunities to the greater San Jose community. The school is also part of Project Engineering Success, a five-year, $5 million grant to help Hispanic and low-income students navigate college in pursuit of engineering and computer science careers.

Students enrolled at San Jose State University have many online and hybrid master’s degree programs to choose from. Tuition varies depending on your specific degree, but program sheets have current tuition rates. Students can apply to various forms of financial aid, including grants, loans, scholarships, and work-study programs.

Popular Online Master’s Programs No. of
Credits
Est. Tuition
MS in Engineering – Smart Sustainable Energy Systems (SSES) 30 $27,000
Master of Archives and Records Administration (MARA) 42 $22,050
MS in Informatics 30 $17,250

The Benefits of Earning an Online Master’s from an HSI

Affordability

As you begin your search for the right graduate degree program at a Hispanic-Serving Institution, you’ll find most HSIs are slightly more affordable than other colleges or universities. That’s because HSIs are eligible to apply for certain federal grants that can amount to millions of dollars, all of which may help lower tuition costs.

Some schools, for instance, charge the same tuition rate per credit hour for both in-state and out-of-state students. For example, New Mexico State University has a fixed tuition rate of $444.40 per credit hour for all students.

Additionally, most HSIs offer students financial aid through the Federal Pell Grant, federal student loans, and scholarships. There are also numerous scholarships available specifically for Hispanic and Latino graduate students.

Improved Accommodations

Despite increased rates of college enrollment, Latinos in their mid-20s or older are still only half as likely as their white counterparts to earn a bachelor’s degree. According to UnidosUS, that’s due to inadequate college preparation, lack of academic support, and little to no financial aid guidance. In some cases, it can lead to Hispanic college students experiencing bias or discrimination.

This has led HSIs to invest in certain program accommodations that are not typically seen in other colleges or universities. For instance, Ana G. Mendez University offers programs in Spanish. Other universities, such as the University of the Incarnate Word, offer students access to campuses in Mexico — giving Latinos everywhere a chance to pursue a postsecondary degree.

Better Support

It’s tough enough getting through grad school and attending school online can add a layer of complexity if you’re not accustomed to technology or the nuances of remote learning. All students — whether online or on-campus — will want to bolster their support systems during their graduate school experience. That’s why most HSIs offer various student services that can help you achieve your goals.

Most schools offer academic advising, career services and technical support, which is especially critical for online grad students. For instance, students enrolled at National University have access to career advising, career fairs and employer information sessions. They have an opportunity to explore different careers, develop interviewing techniques and learn to write a proper resume and cover letter. They can also partake in mock interviews and online workshops.

Research Opportunities

Research projects provide a chance for Latino students to collaborate with others and engage in the community.

The majority of HSIs — like the University of Arizona and San Jose State University, for example — conduct research projects that focus on specific scientific or societal issues relevant to the Latino community or the nation as a whole. Nova Southeastern University is another example, as it is involved in at least 20 different research projects, spanning from breast cancer to stem cell research.

Mentorship and Networking

It’s especially important for online grad students to interact with others to prevent a feeling of isolation. This is why the majority of HSIs offer mentorship programs to help Latino students navigate grad school. Finding a college mentor can also help you connect to a network of students, faculty, and professionals in the career field of your interest.

Colleges and universities that are recognized as HSIs have often established strong connections to the Hispanic community. Additionally, you may even continue to reap the benefits of networking and career services as an alumnus.

Interview with an HSI Expert

Dr. Marla Franco

Are you wondering if enrolling in a Hispanic-Serving Institution is the right option for you? Dr. Marla Franco, vice president for the Hispanic-Serving Institution Initiatives at the University of Arizona, has insights that might tip the scales.
Dr. Franco — a first-generation college graduate with a PhD in higher education leadership — has worked in higher education for more than 20 years, campaigning for greater college access and achievement among underserved and underrepresented students. She is also the founder of AZ HSI Consortium, the cofounder of the STEM in HSI Working Group, and has written several publications advocating for improved practices at HSIs. We spoke with Dr. Franco about the perks of enrolling in an HSI like the University of Arizona.

Q: How do you see the role of Hispanic-Serving Institutions in fostering diversity and inclusivity in higher education?

A: We should be looking at what faculty representation looks like — who teaches, advises, and mentors our graduate students. We should also be thinking about the inclusive nature of what it feels like to be in the classroom as graduate students and on research teams.

Certainly, completion is also another aspect of the experience. We need to make sure that, as we see increases in enrollment among Hispanic and LatinX (graduate) students, they’re completing their degrees in-line with what their educational and career-related aspirations are.

We have to think about so many other components that allow for the educational environment to be one that is conducive to Hispanic and LatinX students being able to thrive.

Those are all the elements we should be striving to have characterize our institutions as we think about our HSI designation.

Q: From your perspective, how do HSIs provide better support for Hispanic master's students compared to non-HSIs?

A: I think there are instances of intentionality at the graduate student population level. It’s an area that has room for growth and improvement for Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

The thing that has gotten us well connected nationally to a lot of concerted intentional efforts is the recent launch of the Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Research Universities.

Across the nation, there are 21 Hispanic-serving research-intensive universities (R1 institutions). Certainly, there are graduate programs at other types of HSIs, but particularly for an R1, such as the University of Arizona, we have a considerable number of graduate degree programs and graduate students. Collectively, the 21 R1 HSIs are really starting to band together and think about what it takes to accelerate degree completion among our Hispanic/LatinX students.

We also need to think about what it’s going to take to diversify the professoriate at the 21 R1 HSIs. It requires the involvement, attention, and commitment from the highest level of leadership at these institutions.

Q: How do the resources and scholarship opportunities at HSIs contribute to making higher education more accessible for Hispanic/Latino master's students?

A: I can’t speak for all, but I can highlight a few things that we have in place here at the University of Arizona. For example, one of the closest partnerships we have is with our Hispanic Alumni Association.

One of their major commitments is fundraising for student scholarships. They have really increased the number of scholarships and extended them beyond just the first-time, full-time entry-level scholarships. Over the years, they’ve established scholarships awarded by the Hispanic Alumni Association. They have given out scholarships to transfer students, for example, as well as graduate students. Those are partnerships we have.

We help activate and circulate those notices to help get the word out so students can apply for those scholarships. We’re also well connected both locally and nationally to a wide array of organizations and federal agencies that have varying types of scholarships, some that are exclusive to graduate students.

Many of the HSI-related grants we have earmarked to support graduate assistantships. It provides a meaningful employment opportunity and optimizes the resources that come with these grants that we competitively vie for.

Q: How do HSIs foster a sense of community and connection among online master's students, especially considering the virtual nature of the programs?

A: That’s an important piece that we’re continuing to make headway on in collaboration with our UA Online and online degree programs. You can’t just plop some of the same resources that we offer to our on-campus undergraduate students and think that they’re going to work as effectively for graduate students.

Often, graduate students are balancing competing demands with holding down full-time employment or caring for family members. They may be coming back to school for different reasons. It may not be their first attempt at completing a degree. Maybe they’re doing it because it’s an opportunity to advance in their current employment, which means they’re really motivated to complete that piece because it may result in a promotion.

I think getting to know the reasons why students are pursuing those degrees within the online environment is important. I think we need to continuously tap into the student experience to better understand their needs and what gaps there may be in service and connection.

Q: Have you observed any unique challenges faced by Hispanic/Latino master's students in online programs at HSIs, and how are these challenges addressed?

A: I’ve had some really great conversations with student success coaches who are supporting students, specifically within the online environment. I’ve sat down and asked them, “What would you say are some of the top challenges that you’re observing?”

They’re talking about things that aren’t necessarily unique. They’re talking about time management challenges. It’s quite a balancing act, depending on some of the competing demands that U of A online students have, for example.

Sometimes learners within the online environment are looking for connection, and sometimes they’re not. They need to get in there and get their courses completed. They want to get in, do their thing and get out. For them, they have a lot going on in their busy lives, and traditional forms of engagement may not be of interest to them as much as other students. There is quite a bit of variance across the student experience that requires input-gathering.

Q: Beyond academic support, what types of cultural or community engagement initiatives does the HSI offer to enhance the overall student experience?

A: There are a lot, but not all of them are headed up by our office. That is a role and responsibility for everyone to take on. There are graduate students who are very well connected and spend time and attend programing at cultural resource centers at the University of Arizona.

We often partner with those centers on programmatic efforts or simply support the effort through advertising. There are co-sponsorships in collaboration with other academic departments. For example, for Dia de los Muertos, there was a huge art exhibit that pulled in several departments and colleges.

There are lots of things that kind of enhance the culture and experience of the institution for both students and our employees. Oftentimes, these things are open to the community as well.

Q: How does the HSI environment contribute to building a strong professional network for Hispanic/Latino master's students, both during their studies and after graduation?

A: One of the things that we’re very insistent on is not taking on the roles and responsibilities of other departments. So how do we work in partnership with those departments — to think about what it means to intentionally serve a diverse student body?

We work with alumni affairs. We work with student career services. We partner with the Hispanic Alumni Association. We partner with areas that oversee clubs and organizations. There are plentiful outlets for students to connect more locally within things that they find meaningful.

Q: Are there specific initiatives or programs at HSIs aimed at promoting leadership and career development among Hispanic/Latino master's students that you find particularly impactful?

A: There’s something called the Lawtina Mentoring Program (at U of A), which is obviously housed in the College of Law. The Arizona Science, Engineering, and Math Scholars Program (ASEMS) is STEM-related. That offers engagement at the undergraduate level, but it’s all toward degree completion and careers in STEM. There’s the possibility of pursuing graduate studies in STEM. There are a lot of those types of sprinklings of initiatives throughout the university.

With career services and student engagement, that’s also another area that’s a close collaborator with HSI Initiatives. We think about career development and forms of engagement that are available to students of color.