Cal Lu Ranked #5 Hispanic-Serving Institution in California

California Lutheran University was ranked the fifth best value private Hispanic-serving institution (HSI) in California for the year 2018 by Best Value Schools. Best Value Schools’ mission is to provide clear and credible guidance to help students find the best college for them, according to its website.

“Within a year and a half of receiving our [HSI] designation we’re already in the top five,” said Paloma Vargas, director of Hispanic-serving institute initiatives. “I think that’s a point of pride and joy for us as a campus.”

An HSI is an institution where Hispanic enrollment is at least 25 percent of total enrollment. At Cal Lutheran, 32 percent of current students identify as Hispanic or Latino, Vargas said.

According to the Best Value Schools website, the initial pool of candidates for Best Value Schools’ ranking was comprised of 104 HSIs in California.

Best Value Schools used to narrow it down to 20 schools with a 20-year return on investment (ROI) higher than $100,000. Schools with a 20-year ROI above $100,000 earned one point, above $200,000 earned two points, above $300,000 earned three points and above $400,000 earned four points.

Other factors that were taken into consideration for the ranking were Hispanic student organizations, scholarship opportunities, awards and recognition regarding Hispanic higher education,  additional student resources, Hispanic centers and institutes, and Hispanic-focused degree programs, according to the Best Value Schools website. Cal  Lutheran earned six points total – the top school, Loyola Marymount University, earned seven.

“I think that it always helps to be high on the rankings. Many organizations like to do rankings because it drives business, and it captures the attention of those who seek some sort of validation or consumer report on what schools are worth their investment,” said Matthew Ward, Cal Lutheran’s vice president of enrollment management and marketing.

Forbes, The Economist and College Raptor have also ranked Cal Lutheran highly, Ward said.

“I would say overall the combination of rankings where we have performed well…tell a good story,” Ward said. “That story generates enthusiasm among Cal Lutheran stakeholders and generates a certain level of pride among the students who go here.”

Knowing that Cal Lutheran has been ranked highly as an HSI feels good, said Carolina Zuniga-Mejia, student intern for Student Support Services (SSS) and Latin American Student Organization (LASO) co-president.

“I remember freshman year it felt so weird coming from a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood and coming here and you’re just like ‘Where are my tacos? What’s going on?’” said Zuniga-Mejia. “It’s been gradually changing… and it’s so much more fun that way.”

Monica Madrigal, a student success counselor at SSS, said she feels it is important for Cal Lutheran to be an HSI so that students know college is a possibility,

“Especially coming from being Hispanic, being Latina, sometimes it’s hard and sometimes we don’t have the correct resources when we’re younger,” Madrigal said.

Madrigal, a Cal Lutheran alumna, said that she has seen the changes that have happened since she attended Cal Lutheran and it makes her excited.

“Being a Hispanic-serving institution provides us an opportunity to show our leadership and say we are a university and a campus that embraces diversity that is moving towards equity [and] that is interested in inclusion,” Vargas said.

Cal Lutheran needs to identify ways to continue to serve other underrepresented minority students as well, Vargas said.

“I think that having our HSI designation could be very attractive to other underrepresented groups in knowing that this is a place that they can come to and feel comfortable and accepted— not tolerated— accepted and embraced,” Vargas said.

Other institutions in the top five included Fresno Pacific University, University of La Verne and Notre Dame de Namur University.

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