Joliet, Ill. – Earlier this year, the University of St. Francis (USF) earned the Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI) designation by the U.S. Department of Education for having an undergraduate full-time equivalent student population that is comprised of at least 25 percent Hispanic students. With that designation, USF was able to apply for and has since been awarded Title V Developing HSIs (DHSI) funding in the form of a grant worth close to $3M over 5 years. The grant will now largely fund a DHSI project titled “Going from Si se Puede to Si se Pudo,” (translated to English as “Going from ‘We Can Do It’ to ‘We Did Do It’ “) designed to support capacity enhancements and innovative strategies to significantly increase retention and graduation rates for all students, and especially those who are Hispanic, from low-income households, or otherwise underserved.

Specifically, 90% of DHSI program costs (totaling $2,996,731) are financed with Federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education, while 10% of DHSI program costs (totaling $340,000) are financed by USF.

The overarching DHSI goal of the project is to transform how the institution engages with current and future students to improve retention over the five-year project period. The project will serve USF’s more than 1,200 undergraduate students, 30% of whom are Hispanic, 40% of whom are Pell-eligible/ low-income, and 64% of whom are first-generation college students.

USF is now in the infancy stages of working to achieve the project goal by spring of 2028 through efforts focused on three institutional objectives, including: increasing retention of full-time, first year (FTFY) students to 80% by redesigning instructional support programming; increasing Latinx students’ 6-year graduation rate to 60%; and increasing the 6-year graduation rate for all students to 66%.

The University plans to achieve the objectives through the following activities that have been designed to strengthen academic programs, improve institutional management, and increase fiscal stability:

  • Strengthen the first-year experience program to support all incoming students from orientation through sophomore retention by hiring a retention specialist, redesigning the required Foundations 1 first-year seminar, implementing an annual two-day faculty training institute for seminar instructors, offering free summer remedial math courses, and providing peer mentoring for incoming students;
  • Increase support for Latinx undergraduates by hiring a community outreach and relations coordinator to build partnerships, adding a bilingual academic coach and bilingual academic advisor, holding bilingual parent and family outreach events, expanding the availability of bilingual, culturally responsive campus ministry programming, offering a Spanish Language for Professionals course for faculty and staff, and translating admissions and financial aid materials into Spanish;
  • Integrate multicultural/culturally responsive curricula across academic areas by providing professional development and faculty support for course revisions, and developing new courses on Hispanic cultural, historic, literary, and political issues; and providing a co-curricular tracking app for the USF campus community to engage in HSI-affirming events and activities;
  • Expand developmental on-campus employment opportunities for low-income undergraduates and support them with an endowment; and
  • Create an on-campus commuter lounge.

“The Title V DHSI award will allow USF to implement programs that will benefit all students, from revising the first-year seminar to enhancing cultural understanding in the curriculum. The goal is to increase retention and completion, so that more students have access to a USF degree,” said Beth Roth, USF Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs.

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The University of St. Francis, in Joliet, Ill., serves close to 4,000 students nationwide and offers undergraduate, graduate, doctoral and certificate programs in the arts and sciences, business, education, nursing and social work. There are over 53,000 USF alumni across the globe. For information, call 800-735-7500 or visit

University of St. Francis: Bigger thinking. Brighter purpose.

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