Western Oregon University advances toward official Hispanic Serving Institution designation

Written by Maureen Brakke

Pictured left to right: student panelist Moises Leal Zepeda, Brenda Rocio Martinez, America Joselyne Salazar Nava, Andy Rincon, and moderator Ricardo Lujan Valerio at the 2024 HSI Summit

MONMOUTH, Ore. – Western Oregon University announces its latest Hispanic student enrollment figures. As of fall 2023, 25.2 percent of Western’s full-time equivalent undergraduate students and 24.1 percent of all Western students (both graduate and undergraduate) identify as Latino/a/e. Western is the first four-year public Oregon institution to achieve these numbers, bringing it closer to becoming eligible to obtain an official Hispanic Serving Institution designation.

Achieving official designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution requires Western to maintain a minimum enrollment of 25 percent full-time equivalent undergraduate students for three consecutive academic years and maintain the same percentage at the end of the award year immediately preceding the application date to become an official HSI. There are additional criteria that higher education institutions must meet in order to become an HSI, some of which Western has met and some of which are ongoing. Attaining official HSI status will provide Western opportunities to apply for Title V federal grants to expand and enhance academic offerings, program quality, and student services.

“As we look towards becoming an official Hispanic-Serving Institution, we recognize the significance of our role in empowering Latiné students and fostering their academic success,” said President Jesse Peters. “Our commitment to serve all of our students extends beyond the classroom, as we strive to create an inclusive environment that values their unique perspectives, stories, and cultures. Together, we provide a personalized learning community where individuals experience a deep sense of belonging and empowerment.”

Over the last few years, Western’s Latiné student enrollment has been steadily increasing. President Peters shares his excitement about the growing Latiné student enrollment but also understands the continued work ahead. “Western is committed to not only sustaining current Latiné enrollment numbers but also enhancing student engagement, support, and enrollment. This will be achieved through increased participation in community events, additional bilingual campus liaisons, enhanced bilingual resources, expanding the Latiné alumni network, and restructuring key campus areas to facilitate smoother communication and reduce barriers. This is a journey we are all on together.”

Western is also a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, the only national association representing existing and emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Faculty and staff members from Western have participated in HACU fellowship programs that aim to foster the development of Hispanic leadership on a variety of levels. On April 26, Western hosted the third annual Hispanic Institution Summit with nearly 300 participants which included state and national partners, universities, and greater community members sharing ideas and best practices throughout the day in plenaries and workshops. Western also recently added the position of Assistant Director of Hispanic Serving Institution Initiatives in its Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion to support efforts to become a Hispanic-Serving Institution. After a search, Cristian Mendez Garcia was selected for this role and officially started on April 22. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, as of fall 2021, there were 600 Hispanic Serving Institutions in 28 states, including the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico, and 421 emerging Hispanic Serving Institutions as of the latest HACU and Excelencia data released this April.



About Western Oregon University

Western Oregon University, established in Monmouth in 1856, proudly stands as Oregon’s oldest public university. Hosting around 4,000 students, Western embodies a mid-sized, NCAA Division II institution, with approximately 80% of its students hailing from within the state. Notably, its diverse student body comprises individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, veterans, and non-traditional learners. Western stands as the preferred campus in Oregon for those pursuing an enriching education within a nurturing, student-focused environment, characterized by faculty-led instruction.  Together we succeed.

You May Also Like…


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.