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University's latest milestone simply a reflection of itself

As Ventura County's only public, four-year university, CSU, Channel Islands is committed to building a university-going culture that is available to the broadest possible range of students. Our goal is to create a campus that mirrors the region's diversity. Today, we celebrate another milestone in our brief history ? one that will allow us to achieve our diversity goals. The university has officially achieved the status as a Hispanic Serving Institution. This federal status is granted when at least 25 percent of an institution's enrollment is Hispanic. What does this mean for the university and Ventura County? This new designation allows the university to compete for U.S. Department of Education funds and other financial support available with the HSI status. These funds will increase our institutional capacity to serve a growing Hispanic and economically diverse student body. This additional support will increase the university's ability to offer enhanced student services, academic preparation, and outreach programs that will benefit all students, not just Hispanic students, and our surrounding communities. Resources may include scholarships, first and second year retention programs, outreach to elementary and secondary students, and services for transfer students. Likewise, the university will be eligible to apply for research grants, teaching/professional development opportunities, and student support programs specific to Hispanic Serving Institutions. Increasing access is important to meet the needs of the county's growing Hispanic population. According to a 2008 Census Bureau report, Hispanics account for 37 percent of the county's population and the county has the 28th largest population of Hispanics among the nation's counties. The report predicts that in the future, California will be one of the states with the fastest Hispanic growth. It is incumbent upon us to prepare and train the work force the county will need in the future. In California, Hispanics are less likely to graduate from high school, less likely to attend college and less likely to graduate from college than whites or Asians. However, we have seen the difference the university can make in providing new hope and opportunity. According to the California Postsecondary Education Commission, in Ventura County, the percent of Hispanic students enrolling as freshmen in a CSU increased from less than 3 percent prior to the university opening to 5.7 percent in 2008-09. Similarly, overall the percent of county students enrolling as CSU freshmen has nearly doubled to more than 8 percent during this same time period. Our HSI designation will help provide the resources to encourage more of this kind of success. As the university continues to grow, so does the potential to increase substantially access and educational opportunities for low to-moderate income students, for educationally disadvantaged students, as well as for groups underrepresented in higher education. Ability is nothing without opportunity. We are committed to creating life-changing possibilities through academic excellence and to providing the county with a rich resource of educated workers from all backgrounds. This strengthens the community and reflects the growing diversity in California's workforce. The university will continue to serve the region, promote partnerships with the community, and work to build pathways to college for all county residents. Richard R. Rush is president of CSU Channel Islands.

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