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Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) are institutions of higher education that have a significant percentage of minority students. The U.S. Department of the Interior Office of Civil Rights explains,

“They are unique both in their missions and in their day-to-day operations. Some of these colleges and universities are located in remote regions of the country, whereas others serve urban neighborhoods. Some are only a few decades old, whereas others, have been striving for more than a century to give their constituents the social and educational skills needed to overcome racial discrimination and limited economic opportunities.”

The seven categories of MSIs are:

  • Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
  • Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)
  • Hispanic Serving institutions (HSIs)
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)
  • Alaska Native-Serving Institutions or Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNHIs)
  • Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs)
  • Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NANTIs)

Supporting MSIs and their graduates are a crucial way to ensure racial and social equity in the country and to obtain a more diverse workforce. OFCCP is making a push for federal contractors to do outreach to Minority Serving Institutions and to include an MSI clause in their conciliation agreements and Early Resolution Conciliation Agreements (ERCAs).

MSIs can be an effective source of recruiting quality candidates and a great way to do outreach to underrepresented populations. 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.”

Some of the best-known Minority Serving Institutions are Historically Black Colleges and Universities. HBCUs have been in existence since the early to mid-1800’s and at that time were the only way Black Americans could get a college degree. They are a major part of the American higher education system. Many employers are aware of prominent HBCUs such as Howard University and Spellman College, but please take note that there are 107 excellent HBCUs throughout the country, many providing opportunity and access to higher education in geographical areas that are significantly underserved.

I encourage all federal contractors to create an MSI initiative at their organization. This includes creating a list of nearby MSIs, reaching out to the career directors at those schools, establishing relationships and then documenting the effort. This will show OFCCP that you’re not in violation.

Outreach to MSIs is a permissible and encouraged form of affirmative action. Partnerships with your local HBCUs and other MSIs can increase your pool of minority applicants. Ultimately, establishing relationships and recruitment programs with local MSIs will pay off with a more diverse workforce and more equitable hiring practices, which is important for any federal contractor.

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About the author
Craig E. Leen, former Director of the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) at the U.S. Department of Labor, is a member of Circa’s Board of Directors.



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Craig Leen
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