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Houston International University

Teresa Palomo Acosta General Entry

Houston International University, "a university without walls," was established in December 1970 under the name Hispanic International University, to provide alternative postsecondary education for Mexican Americans. Leonel Castillo, Ben Reyes, and Hector García, all active in the city's Mexican-American community, were among the founders. Robert Navarro was the first president. Later, Castillo and May N. Paulissen also served as president. A board of directors oversaw operations. In its first several years HIU offered only a small number of seminars. In 1974 it gained admission to the Union for Experimental Colleges and Universities which gave it the authority to grant B.A. and B.S. degrees in social work and public administration. The union expressed concern that only 13 percent of HIU students were Mexican American and that the school had moved away from the Mexican-American section of the city. Enrollment in HIU progressed at a slow rate, and official reports noted that between 1970 and 1977 it awarded only a small number of degrees. Between 1978 and 1982 the graduation rate was reported at between ten and twenty-six per year. In 1983 the school changed its name to Houston International University and began to focus on older-than-average working adults. In 1985 HIU ended its affiliation with UECU, leaving it without legal authority to grant degrees in the state. In 1986 it enrolled 400 students, mostly in English-improvement classes. In April 1987 HIU was certified by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board for a two-year period on the condition that it build its faculty, improve library services, and seek accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In 1990 HIU closed. It had lasted much longer than two other Hispanic-founded colleges in the state, Colegio Jacinto Treviño and Juárez-Lincoln University. In addition, the Coordinating Board team that evaluated HIU noted that the school had a genuine interest in accomplishing its various goals and found its faculty, staff, and students to be highly qualified and committed. Moreover, in 1989 HIU published Del Pueblo, A Pictorial History of Houston's Hispanic Community. The Coordinating Board acknowledged the institution's progress but cited it for failing to develop its library support and shore up its finances.

Houston Chronicle, January 10, 1982. Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board Files, Austin.


  • Education
  • Defunct Colleges and Universities
  • Peoples
  • Mexican Americans

Time Periods:

  • Texas Post World War II


  • Houston
  • Upper Gulf Coast
  • East Texas

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Teresa Palomo Acosta, “Houston International University,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 22, 2021,

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February 1, 1995
March 17, 2017

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