minority recruitment

Minority-Serving Institutions and How They Help Your Company Recruit Talented and Diverse Employees

With a recent focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace in the wake of racial injustice issues in the U.S., many organizations have turned their attention to recruitment strategies to attract diverse candidates. One option for recruiting diverse candidates involves partnering with Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), which are defined as institutions of higher education that uniquely serve minoritized populations.


Why Recruit Talent from MSIs?

MSIs can be an effective source of recruiting quality candidates. The Rutgers Center for MSIs reports that: 

“While HBCUs represent just 3% of all colleges and universities, they enroll 11% of African American students. TCUs represent less than 1% of higher education institutions yet enroll 9% of Native American students. HSIs represent only 4% of postsecondary institutions but enroll 50% of all Latino students. AANAPISIs represent less than 1% of all colleges and universities yet enroll 20% of all Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. MSIs also serve a disproportionately large number of low-income students: 98% of African Americans and Native Americans who attend HBCUs or TCUs qualify for federal need-based aid.”

As such, partnering with these institutions can be the key to accessing diverse and untapped talent.


What are MSIs?

One of the misconceptions is that MSIs only include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). In reality, there are three other MSIs: Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), Asian American Native American Pacific Islander (AANAPISI), and Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs). HBCUs and TCUs are based on their historical mission; HSIs and AANAPISIs are based on the percentage of students enrolled that meet a racial, ethnic and socioeconomic status-related criterion. Thanks to Presidential Executive Orders and special legislation enacted over the past 20 years, institutions that qualify as an MSI program may also receive additional federal funding and resources that directly benefit students and school programs.

  • HBCUs – There are currently 102 HBCUs in the U.S. In order to be considered an HBCU, an institution must have had the historical mission to serve Black students prior to 1964, before the Higher Education Act of 1965.
  • Institutions with a predominately Black student demographic that are not designated as an HBCU (if they became predominately Black after 1964) can only be classified as Predominately Black Institutions (PBIs). In this case, you must have at least 40% enrollment of Black students and at least 30% first-generation/low-income students.
  • TCUs – There are currently 37 TCUs in the U.S. They are typically located on or near reservations and generally serve “geographically isolated” populations who may lack access to traditional educational resources.
  • AANAPISIs – In order to qualify as an AANAPISI, an institution must have at least 10% Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students. Additionally, at least 50% of an institution’s degree-seeking students must receive federal financial assistance.
  • HSIs – To be considered as an HSI, a university must have at least 25% Hispanic undergraduate and full-time equivalent students. According to the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Office of Civil Rights, HSIs enroll 40% of all Hispanic-American students of higher education.

Partnering with these institutions can be beneficial for recruiting a diverse workforce. Most of the organizations in the
DiversityInc Top 50 Companies for Diversity list indicate they have partnered with MSIs as a strategy for diversifying their workforce by providing grants and scholarships to MSI students. From the Top 10 companies in 2020:


Due to bias, there is an unfortunate history of recruiters and hiring managers underestimating and potentially discriminating against job candidates that attended institutions they are not familiar with, which includes Minority Serving Institutions. For example, a recent article from the Wall Street Journal found that Google has “undervalued and underinvested in Black engineering students at HBCUs.” Google also recently fired April Christina Curley, a Black recruiter who maintains that her termination was related to her advocacy for candidates who graduated from HBCUs.

However, the tides are changing. According to a 2020 Forbes article, HBCU grads were hired more than ever before. This surge in Black recruitment may have occurred because of the recent financial investment in DEI efforts as a result of more attention paid by companies on racial injustice issues in the U.S. Another theory is the increased use of online recruitment strategies due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which allowed diverse candidates to access more of these opportunities. 

Understanding MSIs from historical and organizational standpoints is beneficial for building effective partnerships with these institutions, which can directly lead to talented and diverse candidates hired for positions within organizations.


About the author:

Dr. Brittany Robertson is a Research Analyst with DiversityInc. She is a project lead for DiversityInc’s annual Women of Color and Allies event and assists with various research projects within the company. Dr. Robertson received her doctorate in higher education from the University of Pennsylvania. She also has an extensive career as a higher education professional, working in the areas of advising, admissions, enrollment and recruitment. Dr. Robertson’s research focus is on women of color and their experiences in the workplace.


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