With a 32% Hispanic population in undergraduate enrollment, Goshen College will begin the process of applying for status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution this year, becoming one of four colleges in Indiana to move towards this goal.

“This is the first year that we meet the criterion of at least 25% enrollment of Hispanic U.S. citizens,” President Rebecca Stoltzfus said. “It is not an immediate qualification, and will probably be a two-year process. But this is a strategic priority for Goshen College, and so we will begin this work.”

In 2007, only 6% of the student body was Hispanic, compared to 32% today.

After reaching 25% Hispanic student undergraduate enrollment last fall, GC moved to apply for HSI status from the Department of Education. But the department did not acknowledge undocumented, DACA or international Hispanics as part of the 25%.

Currently, there is only one school in Indiana – Calumet College of Saint Joseph – that qualifies as an HSI, according to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

“More than a decade ago, GC realized that Latino youth were one of the most important growing demographic groups in the U.S. nationally and in our region,” President Stoltzfus said. “Our work to build relationships with Latinos regionally and to create an inclusive environment for Latino students has been intentional and has put us near the top of Indiana schools for Latino student recruitment and Latino student success.”

The potential for this new status marks an ongoing change in admissions at Goshen College, as the Mennonite student population continues to decline.

Though President Stoltzfus acknowledges this shift, she still sees the goals of recruitment as attracting a diverse student body.

“Our strategic commitment to recruit Hispanic students does not diminish our commitments to recruit students who come from a variety of nations, identities and faith traditions, including Mennonite students,” Stoltzfus said.

Community impact coordinator Richard Aguirre is excited to see the college’s work towards becoming an HSI come to fruition.

“GC has made it their goal to build a community by finding ways to recruit, retain and graduate Latino students,” Aguirre said. 

But GC’s HSI status is still not guaranteed.

To earn accreditation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, GC must consider three criteria: the “Needy Student” criterion, the “Grant-Specific” criterion and the “Core expenses per full-time equivalent” criterion.

The first criterion – the “Needy Student” – requires the percentage of students who receive certain need-based federal aid, especially Pell Grants, to be above the average percentage at four-year, private institutions. 

“We don't have final numbers on this one yet, but it's likely that GC would fall slightly short of the required percentage,” said Justin Heinzekehr, director of institutional research. “If we do fall short, we could apply for a waiver for this requirement, but the Department of Education wouldn't be guaranteed to accept that waiver.”

The second “Grant-Specific” requirement is the criteria GC has already met, with 25% Hispanic full-time enrollment. 

GC also anticipates meeting the third criterion, which requires the average amount that GC spends on operational expenses per student to be below the average at similar schools. 

“We don't have final numbers here either, but it's likely that GC will meet this criterion, because in previous years we've been well below the average,” Heinzekehr said.

As Heinzekehr and Aguirre work to confirm Goshen’s qualifications, many are excited for what this status will mean for the college.

“This recognition will not only improve the quality of education for many Latinx students but also open the doors for many Latinx faculty, administration and staff,” Aguirre said. “This [HSI status] could also make the institution eligible for a new category of federal aid and possible foundation grants.”

Years of increasing numbers among the Latinx community at GC continues to show itself in other areas on campus.

“Goshen College has added diverse members to the Board of Directors and improved training for intercultural competency as well as diversity, equity, and inclusion…” Aguirre said. 

Gilberto Perez, vice president for student life, notes changes to this year’s student senate.

“Of the five senators, four of them are commuter students,” Perez said. “Two of them are Latinx and one is an international student. This is probably the first time that residential students aren't the majority in the senate.”

“It's exciting to see that commuter students want to lead and build bridges between different groups of students,” he said.

GC joins Holy Cross College, Indiana University-Northwest and Purdue University Northwest in moving towards HSI status in the next two years. 

“By becoming an HSI, Goshen College will more completely fulfill its mission and vision of transforming local and global communities by graduating a broader range of courageous, creative and compassionate leaders enriched by academic excellence and real-world experience, committed to inclusive community and transformative justice,” said Richard Aguirre, community impact coordinator.