Newswise — Florida Atlantic University recently received designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by the United States Department of Education. With its new HSI status – only awarded to colleges and universities with enrollment of full-time Hispanic undergraduate students of at least 25 percent – FAU will be able to compete for federal grants under the Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program. “Florida Atlantic University embraces diversity in our students, faculty and staff, and our recent designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution will help us to further our efforts to bring new programs and new grants that will allow us to truly serve this important and growing population in Florida,” said Gary W. Perry, Ph.D., FAU’s provost and vice president for academic affairs.
This initiative provides funding to help expand educational opportunities for Hispanic students as well as improve recruitment and retention. Institutions must be designated as an eligible institution of higher education in order to apply for the Title V program and must meet the program-specific requirements to be defined as a HSI.
FAU previously was ranked No. 31 in “The 50 Top Ethnically Diverse Colleges In America” by Best College Reviews, was one of three colleges to make the list in Florida, and was the only public university in Florida on the list. Statistics for this ranking were gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics and Diverse Issues in Higher Education.
“For faculty in all areas and specialties, this designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution means they have access to additional funding for research that was not previously available to Florida Atlantic University,” said Daniel C. Flynn, Ph.D., FAU’s vice president for research. “This type of funding will enable our faculty to better train our students by engaging them in research projects and preparing them to effectively compete in our global economy.”
Last fall, FAU received $4.4 million from the U.S. Department of Education to address the projected gap between computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering occupations and workers with enough skills to fill these positions in South Florida. The objective of this grant is to increase the number of degrees awarded to Hispanic and low-income students in these fields, and to facilitate the rate of successful student post-degree computer science, computer engineering and electrical engineering /STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) employment or graduate school enrollment.
“Providing outstanding educational opportunities for a diverse student body is an economic and moral imperative that will help us to develop a qualified workforce and enhance our students’ potential to be successful in their careers,” said Ali Zilouchian, Ph.D., project director and principal investigator of the grant and a professor and associate dean for academic affairs in FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Only 12 percent of Hispanic students graduating from high school score at or above the proficient level in mathematics, and score 25 percent at or above the proficient level in reading. The National Assessment of Educational Progress reports similar trends for other underrepresented groups (black and low-income students) for whom 17 percent score at or above the proficient level in reading and 7 percent in mathematics. Poor preparation and proficiency in mathematics continue to be identified by almost every governmental agency report as a key barrier to success in and completion of any STEM degree. “We take this challenge very seriously, and it is not a coincidence that more than 26 percent of our students majoring in the fields of science, technology and mathematics are Hispanic – making Florida Atlantic University a leader in the effort to reverse the national decline of minority STEM professionals," said Nancy Romance, Ed.D., co-principal investigator of the grant and professor of science education in FAU’s College of Education.
This funded HSI project (Title III) helps eligible institutions of higher education to become self-sufficient and expand their capacity to serve low-income students by providing funds to improve and strengthen the academic quality and institutional management. It is a collaboration between FAU’s College of Engineering and Computer Science, FAU’s College of Education, Broward College, and Palm Beach State College.
In 2015, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that Hispanics accounted for 24 percent of the total population in Florida and 57 million of the U.S. population.
About Florida Atlantic University:Florida Atlantic University, established in 1961, officially opened its doors in 1964 as the fifth public university in Florida. Today, the University, with an annual economic impact of $6.3 billion, serves more than 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students at sites throughout its six-county service region in southeast Florida. FAU’s world-class teaching and research faculty serves students through 10 colleges: the Dorothy F. Schmidt College of Arts and Letters, the College of Business, the College for Design and Social Inquiry, the College of Education, the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the Graduate College, the Harriet L. Wilkes Honors College, the Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine, the Christine E. Lynn College of Nursing and the Charles E. Schmidt College of Science. FAU is ranked as a High Research Activity institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. The University is placing special focus on the rapid development of critical areas that form the basis of its strategic plan: Healthy aging, biotech, coastal and marine issues, neuroscience, regenerative medicine, informatics, lifespan and the environment. These areas provide opportunities for faculty and students to build upon FAU’s existing strengths in research and scholarship. For more information, visit www.fau.edu.