~ by Milton Javier Bravo for the National Catholic Reporter
By the midpoint of this century, two-thirds of the U.S. Catholic population will self-identify as Hispanic. Currently, the majority of Catholics ages 16 to 29 are Hispanic. And, outside of the Catholic population, one in every four high school graduates is Hispanic, reaching closer to 30% of high school graduates by 2036. A new report from Pew Research on race and ethnicity saw a 50% increase in the Hispanic population in 517 counties (out of 1,695) from 2010 to 2020, with the majority of counties located in stats that have not been traditionally Hispanic population centers.
As of 2019, 80% of Latinos are U.S. citizens, including third, fourth, and fifth generations present in all 50 states. Catholic higher education cannot afford not to respond to this growing reality across the country.
This new landscape of student populations is fostering a new higher education identity. The number of Hispanic Serving Institutions or HSI, continues to rise across the United States, including within Catholic colleges and universities. To be classified as HIS, a college or university must enroll at least 25% Hispanic students, and half must be eligible for a federal Pell grant, which is for students with exceptional financial need.
An institution is identified as an emerging HSI if they enroll 15% to 24% Hispanic students. As of Fall 2020, out of 226 Catholic colleges and universities, 32 are HSI, and 36 are emerging HIS. These demographic shifts will continue to shape the student population enrolled in Catholic colleges and universities for decades to come, but the question remains will we respond and be intentional about welcoming, integrating and celebrating our growing Hispanic student population?
Responding to the ongoing transformation of current and emerging Hispanic/Latino populations by Catholic colleges and universities must be rooted in our Catholic identity and mission.
Many Catholic colleges and universities in this country were originally founded to serve the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized communities. This is part of the identity and the historical institutional charism of our schools. The question now remains, will we continue to passively allow the demographic shifts to shape higher education or will we meet this moment intentionally?
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