In an effort to bolster diminishing financial support from the state, SF State is hoping to to gain access to federal funds by using data to prove its diversity, as it seeks the title of a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
The University is asking students to declare their ethnicities in order to potentially gain funds from the U.S. Department of Education, and will be sending out an email in the next few weeks to remind students to mark their ethnicity if they have not done so, University spokeswoman Nan Broadbent said.
“There are many things that are served by receiving this designation,” Lisbet Sunshine, director of government and community relations, said. “One is joining a group of universities around the country that are similarly designated, another is the funding, which would benefit the entire campus, and it (the designation) does acknowledge the diversity that exists on this campus, which is something we celebrate and promote. It’s just one more additional acknowledgement of the diversity.”
In order to qualify as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, SF State needs to have “at least 25 percent of the full-time equivalent undergraduate student body to self-report as Hispanic,” Broadbent said.
As of Fall 2011 SF State’s Chicano and Mexican American undergraduate population stood at 14.4 percent, according to the SF State Data Book, while the other Latino category claimed 9.5 percent.
“If we do meet the eligibility requirement and successfully apply for the designation, then we (the University) would be eligible to apply for funds set aside through Title V,” she said.
According to the the Title V website, the purpose of becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution is to “increase the number of Hispanic and other low-income students attaining degrees in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or mathematics; and to develop model transfer and articulation agreements between two-year and four-year institutions in such fields.”
Institutions of higher education designated as an HSI can apply for two types of grants.
The average grant award for an individual development grant, which only involves one institution, is “estimated at about $775,000 per year,” according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The average grant award for cooperative grants, which involve more than one institution, is estimated to be at $1.1 million per year.
Even if the University was able to be eligible to apply for funds, the probability of receiving them is unknown.
“There’s a lengthy application process,” Sunshine said, referring to the paperwork involved. “There’s no guarantee of any funding but it’s the first step.”
The grants provide funding for specific activities, most of which support science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Other supported activities include student services, such as counseling, mentoring and tutoring.
Since Fall 2007, the percentage of first-time freshman Chicanos and Mexican-Americans have gone up on campus by 7.5 percent, resulting in its highest number in the last five years — 20.1 percent in Fall 2011, according to the SF State Data Book.
That same data shows a small increase in the percentage of other Latinos from 7.8 percent in fall of 2007 to 10.6 percent in Fall 2011.
In March 2012 the University was designated as an Asian-American, Native American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution. In order to qualify for this designation, the University had to show that at least 10 percent of undergraduates were Asian-American, Native American or Pacific Islander. They also had to show that 50 percent of its undergraduate students needed “federal need-based financial assistance,” according to a news release from the University.
The University applied for funding as a result of being designated as an AANAPISI and is expecting to hear back about the federal grant soon, according to Sunshine.
The University will know if they have met the Hispanic-Serving Institution status requirement after Sept.24, the late-adding-by-exception deadline, because the fall 2012 university census will be complete by then, Broadbent said.
Students can change their ethnicity status at any time online, but the calculation will only be determined “when the ‘census’is complete,” Broadbent said. He also noted that “one difficulty for the University in achieving the designation is that a large number of students (1,645 undergraduates in Fall 2011) decline to give their ethnicity.”
Despite the high number of students that have declined, some students were fine with the concept of marking their ethnicity.
“I wouldn’t mind if it helps the school. If it means we can get funds then I’m all for it,” Veronica Wong, a 19-year-old criminal justice major, said.
When discussing why other students may decline to give their race, Wong agreed it can be a precarious topic.
“When it comes down to race it’s always controversial,” Wong said. “But it’s not like you have to wear it around your neck or anything.”
Undeclared freshman Amanda Parker, 18, agreed that the choices of ethnicity categories were limiting and did not always accurately describe her, as she identifies herself as Creole.
“I’m a lot of things so I’m pretty limited, but to keep it easy I put Caucasian or sometimes other.”
Another student said he wasn’t bothered by marking his race but felt that it is unnecessary for the government to be asking for ethnicities.
“It doesn’t really affect me but I think it’s unnecessary to even ask for someone’s ethnicity,” Shaminder Hayer, a 23-year-old business administration major, said. “There’s people that have been here for many generations that are mixed with all kinds of ethnicities. We are all American, and everyone here is one.”