By Kassidy Arena, Iowa Public Radio
Marshalltown Community College (MCC) is just a few percentage points away from reaching a major federal milestone. Once the federal government identifies 25 percent or more of MCC’s student body is Hispanic, the school will be designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI).
According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, in the 2017-2018 school year, nearly 66 percent of Latino college students in the U.S. attended an HSI.
MCC is currently considered an ‘emerging’ institution (eHSI) because it has 15-24.9 percent of the student body identifying as Hispanic.
MCC provost Robin Lilienthal said the designation would open up opportunity for more funding for student services and access—so they are making plans—but that’s not the end-all be-all goal.
“Whether or not we ever actually become a Hispanic-Serving institution is kind of not as important as the efforts and energy that we’re putting into serving our students,” she said. “It’s not necessarily something that has been a goal to achieve, but much more a: ‘Let’s do what we need to do to ensure all of our students are successful. But in particular, as our Latino student enrollment grows in popularity, what do we need to do to really provide an excellent academic and student success program that really serves our Latino students?”
MCC has implemented a new slogan campaign “MCC es para mí” (MCC is for me) and other programs like Latino Family College Night and it has a collegiate chapter of the League of United Latin American Citizens.
Lilienthal clarified she and the college would appreciate the designation and utilize the grant opportunities, but they won’t stop and wait for it. They will continue their outreach efforts within Hispanic and Latino communities, designation or not.
“In the meantime, it’s been always been about what do we need to do to just make it be a really amazing experience for our students and trying to put those those things in place with the institutional resources that we have,” she said.
If it meets the requirement, Marshalltown Community College would be the first federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution in Iowa. As of the 2020-2021 school year, there were two other emerging HSIs in Iowa, according to Excelencia in Education. There are 393 eHSIs in the U.S.
Most HSIs are public two-year institutions, like MCC. The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities lists out of the 569 HSIs in the U.S. in 2020-2021. 235 of them were public two-year colleges.
“I think that would be such a good thing to remind our community that we’re here for them and that we are able to help them with specific needs that come with having a Hispanic or Latino identity,” Theresa Orlovsky said. She teaches English as a Second Language and is on the school’s Spanish faculty.
Both Orlovsky and Lilienthal highlighted the designation would mean a lot to the Marshalltown community, where 31 percent of the population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. Orlovsky added even if MCC does earn the federal HSI designation, that doesn’t mean all Hispanic students need the same resources, so she and the MCC faculty will focus on individualizing student needs as much as possible.
“Each different student has individual needs and individual goals and we want to serve them as individuals. And so we know that Hispanic or Latino identity adds another dimension to that—another layer. And so we’re seeing the balance between their heritage and who they are, and also seeing them as an individual at the same time,” she explained.
Excelencia in Education, an organization focused on the advancement of Latinos in higher education, reported in 2018, 21 percent of Latinos in Iowa had earned an associate’s degree or higher.
Currently, Lilienthal said the school has recorded 23.7 percent of its student body identifies as Hispanic. It should be noted though, the metrics used by the school and the federal government differ. The federal designation does not count part-time student enrollment. MCC will find out if it meets the requirement next January.