BOX 7-2

Minority-Serving Institutions

Minority Serving Institutions are themselves diverse, and policies and programs aimed at serving underrepresented groups should leverage these differences.

  • The Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), for example, were established to respond to the needs of the American Indian population in geographically isolated communities based primarily on reservations. “TCUs have an additional mission: They serve as a venue for educational attainment for American Indian students and are committed to the preservation and resuscitation of native cultures and traditions.”a However, they are plagued by low college access and degree completion rates, inadequate financial support, and historical discrimination. They rely on federal intervention because they typically are located on federal trust territories and cannot access state funds or local tax levies.

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) typically date from the nineteenth century and were established to serve African Americans who were excluded from white institutions. These institutions are predominantly though not entirely in the South, stretching from Pennsylvania to Texas. Their student population is overwhelmingly African American. Yet they, too, are diverse, ranging from very small institutions to research universities like Howard and Florida A&M that operate doctoral and professional programs.

  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) differ definitionally from TCUs and HBCUs in that, in order to meet the federal definition, an institution typically has enrollment of Hispanics at or above 25 percent of the student population. HSIs can, therefore, be both predominantly white and Hispanic-serving at the same time. This, of course, creates a different dynamic. As with HBCUs, HSIs also are diverse, ranging from those with relatively small Hispanic population to those that are overwhelmingly Hispanic (e.g., University of Puerto Rico) and from those that are relatively small to much larger doctoral institutions, such as the University of Texas at El Paso.


aThe Path of Many Journeys: The Benefit of Higher Education for Native People and Communities (2007) Institute for Higher Education Policy.

recipients, despite the fact that many are smaller than mainstream institutions and receive significantly fewer federal obligations for R&D and science and engineering. Much of their success is attributed to their mission to educate underrepresented minority students while providing a sensitive climate, role models, and emphases on teaching, peer support, mentoring, and service to their communities.

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