College named Idaho’s first Hispanic service institution

College of Southern Idaho staff, faculty and community members celebrated Monday as the college has become Idaho's first Hispanic service institution.

College of Southern Idaho staff, faculty and community members celebrated Monday that the college has become Idaho’s first Hispanic service institution.

The College of Southern Idaho just became Idaho’s premier Hispanic institution with speeches, mariachi bands, panels, and the annual Hispanic Youth Leadership Summit. Now that the community college has passed the threshold of having a student body made up of at least 25% Hispanic students, the real work begins.

The Hispanic service designation comes from the US Department of Education. This means that the community college is eligible for an additional grant from the federal government. But the important thing is for the college to retain and qualify Latino students, community leaders say.

Twin Falls College serves much of south-central Idaho, an area where Latinos made up 25% of the population in 2019, according to tthe Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs. It is the most Latin of the six designated regions of Idaho.

Registration keeps pace with the surrounding Latin American population

The 2020 census found that Magic Valley had a Latino population of 24.7%, although Latinos are historically undercounted in the decennial census.

Margie Gonzalez, executive director of the Idaho Commission on Hispanic Affairs, said the college is using marketing strategies and reaching out to the Magic Valley Latino community, but she said more could be done to attract the growing Latin American population of the Magic Valley.

This spring, President Dean Fisher said the college has achieved an enrollment rate of 26% Hispanic in the student body.

Chris Bragg, dean of institutional effectiveness and communications, said the number of Hispanic students in college slightly exceeds the growth of the Hispanic population in Magic Valley.

“If we do this right, in 10 years I suspect the college will have 50% Hispanic enrollment,” Fisher said in a speech Monday to celebrate the college’s designation. “I can look at high schools and colleges and look at the pipeline. We want to do it right. It is the right thing to do.

College hopes to better serve Latino students

Although Fisher was happy to celebrate the designation, he admitted the college could improve by serving all students.

DSC_0460[1] CSI Dean Fisher by Rachel big screen hard cropping.jpg
College of Southern Idaho president Dean Fisher said he had experience working with community groups on how colleges can better serve them. In his home state of Oklahoma, Fisher said he worked with tribal leaders on how to better serve Native American students. Rachel Spacek

“We are a strong, successful and vibrant organization, but we can be better because we, as imperfect creatures, can be better,” said Fisher. “Let’s dedicate ourselves this week to finding these ways to be better. Our students will benefit, our growing Hispanic population will benefit, and most importantly, all of our students will benefit as we improve. “

Juan Andrade, president of the Hispanic American Leadership Institute, a nonprofit organization that works to support Latino students and others in education, said after receiving the Hispanic service designation, a college must determine how this happened. Was it because the local Latin American population is high and students have nowhere to go except this college? Or is it because of how college has attracted Latino students?

A college must have a plan that shows that it is the intention of that school to attract Hispanic students, ”Andrade said in an interview with the college. “What power of attraction do you have? Is it the faculty? Are these programs? Degrees? Staff? Resources? The tuition fee here is $ 4000, what financial aid is there? “

Andrade said that while the reason the college has become Hispanic is because of the region, that is not enough to retain and graduate Latino students, which matters.

“Signing up will get you there, but not intentionally serving and not graduating will not keep them there,” he said.

One of the reasons for organizing a week-long event at the College of Southern Idaho around the Hispanic service designation was to meet with experts and staff on how the college can increase retention rates and d ‘completion.

“Our data shows that Hispanic students are one of the groups we are most likely to retain, but they lag somewhat behind in graduation rates relative to other groups,” Bragg said in an e -mail. “As an institution serving Hispanics, we have delved into this point with the goal of finding out how we can provide students with the support they need to be successful. “

Partnering with local businesses and individuals to develop scholarships for Latino students is one way Andrade asserts that a college can work to retain Latino students. Other ways he suggests are to create cultural support systems like clubs and community organizations so that students feel they belong.

It’s also important to hire faculty and staff who look like the students they serve, Gonzalez said.

“My hope – and I have had these conversations with President Fisher – is to see their faculty reflect their student body over the next two or three years,” she said.

The faculty of the College of Southern Idaho is 4% Hispanic and the staff is about 12% Hispanic.

“Like most Hispanic service institutions, this is a challenge for us, and it is also something that we are deepening this week,” said Bragg.

Rachel Spacek covers western Ada and eastern Canyon counties. Have a story suggestion or question? Email Spacek at rspacek@idahostatesman.com.


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