Cal Lutheran News
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Cal Lutheran welcomes 3,500 diverse students

Student body includes a growing Hispanic population

(THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — Aug. 29, 2023) California Lutheran University has begun its 2023-2024 academic year with 3,500 students, including 2,400 undergraduates, whose diversity demonstrates the school’s commitment to creating educational pathways for people of all backgrounds.

Of the 770 first-time undergraduate students, 62% are students of color; 42% are the first in their families to attend college; and 8% are international students. The number of Hispanic incoming undergraduates is 327, or 42.5%.

Cal Lutheran, a Hispanic-Serving Institution, has been particularly successful in growing the Hispanic student population over the past 10 years. In 2013, only 25% of students identified as Hispanic; today, Cal Lutheran has one of the largest Hispanic undergraduate populations by percentage in the country, at 41%. Cal Lutheran’s six-year graduation rate for Hispanic students is 73.5%, placing the university in the 84th percentile nationwide. 

“We take the ‘serving’ part of our HSI identity very seriously,” said Cal Lutheran President Lori Varlotta. “We believe that we can best serve our overall student population when we reduce barriers that disproportionately affect traditionally underrepresented students. This commitment allows us to harness the assets of our richly diverse community, so that all may flourish.  We are immensely proud that we put ourstudents in the best possible position to succeed in their classes and, once they leave us, in the workforce.”

Programs such as CHESS (Collaborative for Hispanics in Higher Education and Student Success), have been key to attracting and retaining Hispanic students. One CHESS initiative, specifically for men of color, is a mentorship program that pairs Cal Lutheran students with first- and second-year students from community college. Another CHESS initiative is the creation of a new curriculum by faculty members at Cal Lutheran and nearby Moorpark College that streamlines the process of transferring from community college to Cal Lutheran. CHESS has enjoyed an impressive 90% student retention rate.  

Project VITAL (Vocational Identity and Talent in Academic Learning) is a new Department of Education Title V-funded program that will also help bring a broader profile of students to Cal Lutheran. Initiatives will include improving staff and faculty knowledge of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice principles, providing mentorship for students by staff and faculty, and creating relevant internships.

Cal Lutheran also has about 1,100 graduate students, including at its Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, with over 34% identifying as Hispanic.

Classes started on Monday, Aug. 28. For more details, visit

MEDIA NOTE: Contact Mark Berry, associate vice president of marketing and communications, at or 805-493-3839. Contact Sharon Nelson at or 805-493-3150 for photos.