Researchers predict that as Florida’s diverse population grows, so, too, will the state’s Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs).
That is one of the key findings outlined in the new report “Even More Potential to Serve: Florida’s Minority Serving Institutions” from the Penn Center for Minority Serving Institutions (CMSI) at the University of Pennsylvania. The report is a comprehensive analysis of longitudinal data on enrollment, financial indicators, student financial aid and institutional completion measures at Florida’s MSIs.
In addition, CMSI’s report, authored by Dr. William Casey Boland, an assistant professor at Baruch College, listed several recommendations for MSIs and Florida policymakers: reconsider approaches to college affordability, student support and outcomes, institutional resources and elevating MSI success stories.
Dr. William Casey Boland
“It seems like not enough attention is paid to Florida higher education, especially its institutions serving the majority of students of color in the state,” Boland said. “Florida is very organized in how it approaches its public higher education systems.”
Although there are four historically Black institutions in Florida, most of the state’s MSIs are Hispanic Serving Institutions. Report findings show that MSIs compromise nearly 25 percent of the Florida College System, 25 percent of the State University System and 29 percent of private not-for-profit colleges and universities.
The report findings illustrate that enrollment at MSIs has slightly declined from 501,206 students in 2010 to 482,869 students in 2016. While these institutions saw enrollment declines for African-American students (-10 percent) and White students (-21 percent), Latino/a student enrollment increased 10% and non-resident alien student enrollment increased 55 percent between 2010 and 2016.
Overall demographic compositions at Florida’s MSIs indicate that, as of 2016, Latino/a and White students made up the majority of all students enrolled.
Regarding financial aid, researchers found that students attending MSIs receive less financial aid compared to the national average of 86 percent of first-time, full-time undergraduate students receiving some form of aid.
CMSI researchers also found that Florida public institutions received less state funding on average compared to the national average – $6,456 compared to $7,642 per full-time equivalent. However, the state has increased funding from 33 percent to 37 percent as a proportion of institutional revenue.
College-completion outcomes between 2010 and 2016 saw Florida MSIs increase their awarding of doctoral degrees by 14 percent, master’s degrees by 5 percent, bachelor’s degrees by 31 percent, associate’s degrees by 10 percent and college certificates by 60 percent.
Graduation rates have increased from 35 percent to 40 percent at public MSIs, and slightly from 39 percent to 41 percent at private MSIs. Non-resident alien students and student populations listed as “race/ethnicity unknown” held the highest graduation rates.
In various “MSI Spotlight” sections throughout the report, CMSI highlighted the enrollment numbers, cost of attendance, demographic composition, graduation and retention rates, percentage of students receiving aid and core revenues for Bethune-Cookman University, Edward Waters College, Carlos Albizu University, Florida A&M University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Memorial University, Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus and Valencia College – East Campus.
The report’s conclusion offered several recommendations for institutions and policymakers to commit to the success of the state’s college students.
Institutions are encouraged to collaborate and form strategic partnerships, apply for MSI grants and other eligible federal funding, align with and recognize the importance of community and community involvement, align with private industry sectors and share their institution’s successes.
“It is important for students, families, administrators and the community to be aware of how MSIs excel at serving students and the community,” the report said. “MSIs should develop their ability to play the public relations game to demonstrate their value” to the community and state policymakers.
At the policy level, CMSI recommended that Florida policymakers continue to invest in the state’s public institutions, foster “P-20” connections across all sectors of education in the state and protect Dreamer students amid partisan debates on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA.
Investing more in need-based financial aid is also among CMSI’s recommendations for policymakers, as the report’s researchers noted that declining college enrollment could signal affordability obstacles for students and their families, particularly as Florida’s low-tuition costs and fees rise.
“Need-based financial aid could be key in ensuring traditionally underserved students enroll in Florida higher education,” the report said.
Directing performance-based funding toward success for all students should be on policymakers’ agenda, the report added, because such funding often ignores the demographic makeup of MSIs.
“Performance funding has become very popular throughout the U.S.,” said Boland. “Yet, much of the empirical research shows either no or a potentially negative impact on student outcomes, such as bachelor’s-degree attainment. This has particularly been the case for institutions like HBCUs and other MSIs, who serve a disproportionate number of students of color and low-income students. We hope that more attention is paid to how state public policies have a direct impact on institutions and how they can best elevate their students.”
The CMSI report suggested that the state will only benefit when all of Florida’s residents can enroll in and graduate from colleges or universities in the state.
“MSIs have served and will continue to excel at this core mission of higher education,” the report said.
Tiffany Pennamon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow her on Twitter @tiffanypennamon.