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CSN designated Hispanic-serving institution

The College of Southern Nevada was designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution by federal education authorities, opening the door to hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant opportunities for the school, president Michael Richards said Monday.

CSN is the first in the state to achieve the designation, which came about as the school’s Hispanic enrollment rose above the U.S. Department of Education’s requirement of 25 percent. The designation is based on enrollment and Pell Grant data from the 2012-13 academic year. As of last fall, Hispanics make up 27 percent of the student population.

The designation will allow CSN to apply for highly competitive grants that could net the school $525,000. Of the 370 Hispanic Serving Institution’s nationwide, only 29 grants are awarded annually.

Richards said if grant money is obtained because of the designation, money will be used to help CSN’s continued goal of improving student success.

The college set up a task force a couple of years ago, made up of administrators, faculty, students and community leaders, to work toward meeting the requirements, said Clarissa Cota, who led the task force and is head of the college’s business department.

Cota explained that CSN was hovering just short of the 25 percent mark, when officials realized 8 percent of the student population had chosen not to declare their ethnicity.

A plan was set as officials reached out to those students and explained the benefits of declaring their ethnicity, Cota said.

With “better reporting” of the student body’s ethnicity, CSN met the Education Department’s criteria for the designation.

There were other stumbling blocks too, Cota said.

CSN, when it applied for the designation in December, did not meet the criteria for the percentage of Pell Grant eligible students. The Education Department had changed the criteria from 35 percent to 45 percent, but only 42 percent of CSN’s students received Pell Grants in the 2012-2013 school year.

So the college sought a waiver for the requirement. Community leaders and Nevada’s elected officials wrote letters in support and the waiver was granted.

Richards said it took a lot of folks from around the community to meet the criteria and thanked the Latin Chamber of Commerce and the Latino Caucus, among others, for their help. Congresswoman Dina Titus also sent a letter to the education department in support of the school.

“This designation belongs to the community we serve,” Richards said. “It is a symbol that states loud and clear that we are your community college.”

CSN, along with the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have already been designated Minority Serving Institutions by the Department of Education.

UNLV’s Hispanic student population is nearly at 25 and the university is expecting to soon meet the criteria to apply for the coveted Hispanic Serving Institution designation.

Contact Francis McCabe at fmccabe@reviewjournal.com or 702-224-5512. Find him on Twitter: @fjmccabe

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