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Is CSN still a ‘Hispanic-Serving Institution’? Federal designation in question

A federal document released Tuesday shows the College of Southern Nevada didn’t meet the definition of a Hispanic-Serving Institution this year, but college officials assert that the school’s status is still active.

The U.S. Department of Education’s “eligibility matrix” shows which schools nationwide qualify for the distinction for fiscal 2023, which runs through Sept. 30.

CSN, a community college with three main Las Vegas Valley campuses and about 27,000 students, received the designation in 2015, the first in Nevada.

The federal program is designed to improve academic opportunities at schools that have a large population of Hispanic students. In order to qualify, a college or university must have 25 percent or more of its full-time undergraduate students who identify as Hispanic and a certain threshold of low-income students who receive a federal Pell Grant.

Nearly 40 percent of CSN’s student body identifies as Hispanic.

But CSN is still an “active” HSI, college spokesman Richard Lake said in a Tuesday email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

“To be clear, CSN continues to meet the criteria as a Hispanic Serving Institution,” he wrote.

School didn’t apply for eligibility

The U.S. Department of Education vets schools yearly, and they must meet several criteria listed in a Federal Register notice, a department spokesperson wrote in an email to the Review-Journal.

CSN didn’t meet eligibility requirements this year based on a review of “high percent needy students and low general expenditures,” the spokesperson wrote.

The college was below the 33 percent “needy student threshold” and also didn’t apply for eligibility or seek a waiver, the spokesperson wrote.

The college, though, still has its HSI grant and a federal cost-share waiver.

“Grantees can maintain their grants regardless of eligibility,” the spokesperson wrote.

In 2020, CSN announced it was using a five-year, $2.9 million HSI grant for a program that helps guide students through math classes.

Funding is still being directed to the college, Lake wrote. “Additionally, we expect to apply for more HSI funding in the future.”

The confusion, he wrote, seems to stem from the fact that “CSN is not pursuing any new Title V grants under its HSI status this year, so did not submit the data for ‘automatic’ designation,” he wrote. “Therefore, we are not eligible for new HSI grants this year. We are still an HSI, as we are receiving HSI funding.”

CSN President Federico Zaragoza is on the governing board for the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, which is made up of HSI institutions across the country.

Nationwide, there are 523 HSI-eligible schools. That includes five in Nevada, the majority of the state’s public higher education institutions: UNLV, Nevada State College, Truckee Meadows Community College in Reno, Western Nevada College in Carson City and Great Basin College in Elko.

Contact Julie Wootton-Greener at jgreener@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2921. Follow @julieswootton on Twitter.

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