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Update on UC Davis’ Progress toward Achieving Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) Designation

UC Davis has made important progress toward our goal of achieving federal Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) designation since our last communication on this subject on October 1, 2019, which may open up opportunities to pursue HSI sources of funding. While our HSI ideals go well beyond funding implications, UC Davis recognizes that access to financial resources is essential to advancing many of the recommendations in the HSI Task Force report. The Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (VC-DEI) has been charged to take a leadership role in communicating with federal agencies, coordinating with partners on campus, and engaging with stakeholders on these funding opportunities. We are also working closely with the Office of Research (OR) and Budget and Institutional Analysis (BIA) to ensure that we provide available accurate information as you, stakeholders on campus, consider these funding opportunities.

First, we want to explain that under federal law, UC Davis may qualify as a Minority Serving Institution (MSI) both as an HSI and as an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution (AANAPISI). The Higher Education Act established the U.S. Department of Education (ED) as the federal agency responsible for determining eligibility and designation under both HSI and AANAPISI, which are necessary precursors to access federal funding. For this reason, other federal agencies that make available funding opportunities to MSIs – including the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, among others— rely on ED’s determinations of these designations.

The Department of Education recently clarified UC Davis’ formal designation as AANAPISI in a public eligibility rubric that most agencies rely on to determine MSI designations. In addition, ED confirmed UC Davis’ formal designation as AANAPISI to BIA in response to our annual submission of the waiver application that ED required to establish our MSI eligibility. Any MSI designation requires that eligible institutions establish a federally-mandated threshold of undergraduate student enrollment as a percentage of the overall student enrollment using the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) data. This method, and its connection to HSI designation, was discussed with details in our October 2019 communication. The ED eligibility matrix, however, relies on data from IPEDS that runs two years behind the most student recent enrollment data, and for this reason, we do not yet appear in the MSI eligibility matrix as HSI, and it explains why other federal agencies or non-profits label UC Davis an “emerging HSI.” Nevertheless, UC Davis' proportion of students who identify as Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander is well past enrollment thresholds based on the most recent published IPEDS data, which is from 2017-2018. Unfortunately, opportunities for AANAPISI funding are fewer and yield fewer resources than some of the other MSI funding opportunities.

UC Davis has also requested that the federal government qualify us as an HSI. Our recommendation is based on a different methodology that utilizes 2018-2019 student enrollment data rather than what has been reported to IPEDS. In recent communications from ED to UC Davis, ED has confirmed that UC Davis has met the 25% threshold for Chicanx/Latinx/Hispanic students, albeit not based on the standard methodology that ED calculates percentage of "Hispanic" students under IPEDS. More importantly, ED has asserted in these same communications, that applications for HSI-related funding from UC Davis would be welcomed and accepted. One correspondence included the following statement from ED, "…we are allowed to use 2018-2019 enrollment data for UC Davis is 26.7%. As such we will accept the letter that indicates ‘eligible institution’ and our enrollment data to validate eligibility for UC Davis for the 2020 HSI grant [cycle].”

With ED’s assurance, and after consultation with executives from OR and BIA, we believe that UC Davis is ready to seek federal funding opportunity as a HSI and are moving forward with cautious optimism and the awareness that allowable methodologies for counting students may vary from opportunity to opportunity. To increase our chances of success, we ask that anyone on campus who wishes to pursue an opportunity work with our staff in the VC-DEI office. As we look to maximize resources for the campus, coordination is essential to avoid pitfalls, including potential conflicts with other opportunities that may be underway. We are happy to provide the following assistance and services:

  1. We will provide any relevant communications that we have from federal agencies and the Department of Education validating that we may be positioned to pursue opportunities as an MSI, AANAPISI, or HSI.
  2. We will work with you to contact the agency program director to solicit confirmation that they would accept the applications.
  3. We will coordinate with the Office of Research to sign off on applications that require a statement of eligibility.
  4. We will work with BIA to provide any data or documentation you might need to sustain arguments for eligibility or other matters related to your funding request.
  5. Due to federal funding opportunities restricting institutions to a single competitive submissions, we will help you coordinate the required internal competition process in concert with the Interdisciplinary Research Support (IRS) unit in the Office of Research [link].

We are extremely grateful to Congress and the ED for its prompt and substantial response to help higher education weather the enormous impacts from COVID-19. Even before asserting our MSI status, UC Davis received nearly $34 million in federal funding through the CARES Act. Of that amount $17 million is designated to provide direct financial assistance to our students. The remainder will be used to address some of the operational impacts caused by the pandemic. UC Davis has begun the application process for funds designated for minority serving institutions under the CARES Act, and we anticipate additional, critical funding through this effort. We will continue to seek federal funding—and other opportunities—because it is imperative that we have the resources to continue to advance equitable opportunity for all student at this critical moment in history and in our students’ futures.

If you have not yet had a chance to read our 2019 HSI Taskforce Report, you can find it here.

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