Cuesta College is now an official Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI). The primary criterion for HSI designation for colleges, universities, or systems/districts is a total Hispanic enrollment of at least 25 percent of the total enrollment; Cuesta College is currently at 33 percent. HSI designation is provided through the U.S. Department of Education and allows the college to apply for grants that can help Hispanic and low income students accomplish their educational goals. 

“The Hispanic-Serving Institution designation will allow Cuesta College to continue paving the road to success for hundreds of current and future Latino and Latina students,” said Cuesta College Superintendent/President Dr. Gil Stork. “We hope this designation enhances the work Cuesta College is already doing to support our Hispanic students, including that of our Latino Leadership Network (LLN), Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA) student club, the increase of English as a Second Language (ESL) courses at our South County Center in Arroyo Grande, and the continuation of Edúcate – Sí Se Puede, an on-campus conference attended by hundreds of local high school Latino and Latina students each year seeking information about higher education.”

Cuesta College has seen a significant increase in its Hispanic student population in recent years. According to the Cuesta College Office of Institutional Research, in 2010, Hispanic students made up 24 percent of the student population; in 2014, Hispanic individuals made up 32 percent of the student population, and 45 percent of the student population on the North County Campus in Paso Robles. During that same time period, the percentage of white students decreased from 63 percent to 58 percent.

The number of Hispanics residing in San Luis Obispo County is also on the rise. According to the California Department of Finance, the proportion of county residents who identify as Hispanic will increase from 22 percent in 2015 to 24 percent in 2025.

“It is crucial that we continue to provide support services to our growing population of Hispanic students, and the HSI designation is key to increasing these services as it will open the door to specialized grant funding,” said Dr. Stork.

There are two types of educational grants available once a school is recognized as an HSI; a Title III and a Title V grant. The college is currently in the process of applying for a Title III grant, which allows a school to expand educational opportunities and improve the attainment of Hispanic students. The specific grant would fund STEM programs at awarded colleges with portions of $92 million disbursed over a five year period.

“The grant would provide more opportunities to help students succeed in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Cuesta College Director of Grant Development Janet Shephard. “The funding would go toward helping the growing demographic of Hispanic students in STEM programs by providing designated staff and resources, like specialized counselors and tutoring.”

“I believe with increased targeted services to Latinos on campus, Cuesta College will see an increase of Latino students and that those students will experience more success,” said Interim Cuesta College MEChA President Cristian Rojas. MEChA is a student organization that promotes higher education, culture, and history among Hispanic students.

“We hope this designation is the start of an important chapter in the history of Cuesta College that showcases our institution as a great source of postsecondary education dedicated to student success,” said Dr. Stork.

Cuesta College will receive notification of the grant award status in August, 2016.