American Sociological Association

Racing to Serve or Race-ing for Money? Hispanic-serving Institutions and the Colorblind Allocation of Racialized Federal Funding

It is often presumed that minority-serving institutions (MSIs)—colleges and universities with the mission or capacity to serve underrepresented students—operate with a mission to alleviate broad inequalities by race. Yet the degree to which this remains true for Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs), the fastest growing subset of MSIs, is contested and unexplored systematically. In this study the authors briefly detail the founding of HSI as a racialized status and consider how colleges and universities designated as HSIs today are serving Latinx students with racialized federal funding. The historical process and criteria by which HSI was established as a racialized designation, the authors argue, continues to shape their racial logics. Through a content analysis of the population of successful Title V “Developing Hispanic-serving Institution” grant abstracts to the U.S. Department of Education (2009–2016), the authors find great consistency in how HSIs conceptualize their Latinx student populations but substantial variation in how they seek to “serve” Latinx students. In the large majority of cases (85 percent), Latinx students are not centered in HSIs’ Title V programmatic efforts, which are instead organized to serve their entire student bodies. Because HSI status was conferred primarily by Latinx student enrollments, and not a mission to serve Latinx students, dominant colorblind White logics frequently persist at HSIs. Consequently, Latinx educational inequalities are rarely explicitly addressed. In their quests to secure funding as minority serving institutions, we find that HSIs often fail to center the Latinx students who permit their very eligibility.


Nicholas Vargas and Julio Villa-Palomino





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