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Former ‘Overwhelmingly White’ Campus Now a Hispanic-Serving Institution

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Three decades ago, some Latinos said they didn’t feel welcome on the “overwhelmingly white” University of California, Santa Barbara campus, according to some reports. Now, the school is the fourth in the UC system to be designated a Hispanic-serving institution – a classification given to schools where at least 25 percent of students are Hispanic.

In an article by Larry Gordon of the Los Angeles Times, Acting Dean of Undergraduate Education Carl Gutierrez-Jones said UC Santa Barbara is now “very proud to have a student body that reflects the diversity of the state and is preparing all students to work effectively in that complex population.”

Santa Barbara joins UC campuses Merced, Riverside and Santa Cruz and 370 other colleges across the country with the HSI distinction; 126 are in California. It is also among the first HSIs to be a part of the 62-member Association of American Universities, a group of leading research universities in the United States and Canada.

Gordon reports that about 27 percent of UC Santa Barbara’s 19,000 undergraduate students are Latino, which is double the percentage from 25 years ago. The student population is 41 percent white, 25 percent Asian Pacific Islanders and 4 percent black.

Gutierrez-Jones said the university has made efforts to recruit and enroll more low-income, first generation college students. State demographics are also changing. According to 2013 data from the U.S. Census Bureau, 38.4 percent of California’s population is Hispanic or Latino.

The HSI status can be a first step toward enabling schools to be eligible for federal Title V funds and private grants that aim to boost Latino students’ academic success, university officials said.