A Message from MSU Denver’s Executive Director of HSI Initiatives and Inclusion

Manuel Del Real

¡Bienvenidos RoadRunners!

Becoming an HSI was a 12-year initiative that started in 2007 leading to Metropolitan State University of Denver receiving designation during the Spring of 2019. It has been a privilege to lead our continued HSI Initiatives in partnership with the HSI Committee that consists of colleagues across divisions and academic colleges who are committed to serving our Latinx students with intentionality, while maintaining our commitment to serving all our students. MSU Denver aspires to become a model Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) by creating and sustaining initiatives that support students as they achieve their academic goals and prepare for their careers. As we continue our HSI journey, I invite you to learn more about MSU Denver’s HSI initiatives and I look forward to our continued work as a collective community.

Becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution: The 12-year road to earning federal designation

In 2007, then President, Stephen Jordan, Ph.D., launched an HSI initiative designed to increase Hispanic/Latina/o/x enrollment to 25 percent of our student body, including having a specific percent of our degree-seeking students eligible for Title IV funding. Back then, Hispanic/Latina/o/x  made up close to 20 percent of Colorado’s population; yet MSU Denver’s student body was only 13 percent Hispanic/Latina/o/x . Our focus has always been to educate the students of Colorado, so we made efforts to ensure our student body reflected the people of Colorado, especially the Denver metro area counties. With a starting point of 12.5 percent Hispanic/Latina/o/x enrollment in 2008, we reached the required 25 percent benchmark during the Fall of 2018, with 26.4 percent. In February 2019 we achieved HSI Designation with 5,469 enrolled Hispanic/Latina/o/x students, more than any other higher education institute in Colorado.

An HSI Task Force consisting of six working groups or sub-committees was eventually created in 2007, led by Luis Torres and Judy Diaz Bonacquisti, with each team focused on a different theme or topic related to Hispanic/Latina/o/x students.  The themes for each the groups included institutional infrastructure, pre k-12 education, transfer and enrollment (including continuing enrollment), financial aid, policy focusing on curriculum, faculty, and staff development, and cultural competence).

In 2012, a recommendation came out of the HSI Task Force in response to the reality of a tuition structure that required undocumented students – who had lived in Colorado for most their lives and attended high school in Colorado – to pay out of state tuition. In response to this inequitable reality, we restructured our tuition requirements so that they could afford and gain access to higher education. At its June 2012 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved a far-reaching and especially significant tuition plan, “Colorado High School/GED Tuition Rate”, only slightly above regular in-state tuition, which allowed undocumented students access to MSU Denver. Following the lead of the Board of Trustees, a year later, Colorado lawmakers passed the ASSET bill which provides qualified undocumented students with in-state tuition at all public universities throughout the state. Being an affordable four-year institution in Colorado, as well as an institution that believes every student deserves an opportunity to be educated, MSU Denver was then and still is a clear choice for all students, including becoming the clear choice for many DACA students. In 2016, MSU Denver’s HSI Task Force released a report, CONNECTING THE DOTS: Report and Recommendations of Metropolitan State University of Denver’s Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) Task Force.

MSU Denver’s HSI status benefits all MSU Denver students, not only those who identify as of Hispanic/Latina/o/x. Although HSI designation places importance on retaining and graduating our Hispanic/Latina/o/x students, it also provides opportunities to create and implement better and more effective practices aimed at retaining and graduating ALL our students. Our designation allows the University to be eligible to compete for and receive federal funds, including multi-million-dollar grants designed to encourage educational access and degree completion, increase graduation rates, develop partnerships with community colleges, promote access to higher education, and strengthen institutional efforts. Some have requirements to partner with other minority serving institutions.

Presently, MSU Denver continues to serve the highest number of Hispanic/Latina/o/x students among institutions of higher education in the state of Colorado, at 5,843, representing 31 percent of MSU Denver’s enrolled student body. This includes all undergraduate and graduate students. Within the last two years MSU Denver’s Hispanic/Latina/o/x student body increased by 3 percent, 6 percent more than Colorado state’s 22 percent Hispanic/Latina/o/x make-up. Thirty-eight percent of enrolled Hispanic/Latina/o/x students attend part-time while the other 62 percent are enrolled full-time. 60 percent of our graduate students and 37 percent of undergraduates attend part-time, with the remaining student attending full-time.

The benefits of our HSI designation are something we are still learning as MSU Denver’s designation as an HSI by the Department of Education is a recent one. Since becoming an HSI, MSU Denver has been deliberate in our efforts to advance this work structurally.  This includes becoming part of several national, state, and local organizations focused on addressing the advancement of Hispanic/Latina/o/x issues in education and beyond, such as student access, support, success, and careers.  MSU Denver is a member of the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators (AHSIE), Excelencia in Education, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), the Colorado Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, and the Colorado Coalition for the Educational Advancement of Latinx (CoCEAL).

In October 2019, MSU Denver has been awarded one HSI Post Baccalaureate Grant in Nutrition Program aimed at promoting opportunities for Latina/o and encourages access and enrollment of Hispanic/Latina/o/x Students to graduate school. Since June 2020, the University received $2,765,922 from the HSI/MSI CARES Act as a Covid-19 grant.

During AY 2019-20, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion created the DEIC (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council), a group aimed at examining diversity, inclusion, and equity issues at MSU Denver with respect to policy and practice from multiple perspectives and across different functionalities. This includes access, recruitment and retention, community mending and outreach to diverse constituents internally and externally, campus climate and institutional culture, and HSI Synergy and Integration Efforts (a renewed and restructured version of the HSI Task Force). Now anchored within conversations aimed at strategic thinking and diversity planning within context of HSI. Part of the role of the HSI team is to remain current with and examine issues, trends, and advocacy pertaining to HSI initiatives, programs and services. This includes: (1) Gain awareness around laws, regulations, policies that have potential impact on HSI funding and designation; (2) Strengthen process and criteria for the identification and prioritization of HSI grants; (3) Benchmark HSI effective and impactful practices for consideration.

HSI Grants

Being designated as an HSI the university is eligible to apply for additional grants and funding from the federal government. See what MSU Denver has done so far as an HSI with this funding.

HSI Grants
Online MSU Denver student learning outside the classroom

Advocacy Efforts

MSU Denver participated in several advocacy efforts relating to our designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution. These efforts are done at the state and federal levels in partnership with others.


Manuel Del Real, Ph.D.

Executive Director of HSI Initiatives and Inclusion


Campus Location:

Jordan Student Success Building (JSSB) 440
890 Auraria Parkway
Denver, CO 80204

Mailing Address:

P.O. Box 173362
Campus Box 1
Denver, CO 80217-3362