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Hispanic-Serving Institutions Make Impressive Strides

Hispanic-Serving Institutions Make  Impressive Strides
But  Leaders  Say  Funding  Not  Keeping  Pace with  Demographics

By Charles Dervarics

For Hispanic education leaders, the year 2000 may go down as a landmark year for action in the nation’s capital.With a special White House conference drawing
national attention to their cause and a large budget increase all but certain this fall, Hispanic-serving colleges and universities are gaining new stature within federal agencies and on Capitol Hill. To many advocates, this attention is welcome but overdue, since they argue that only comprehensive initiatives can produce
dramatic improvements for Hispanic youth.
“Without a comprehensive effort, we will have Band-Aid remedies that will not get to the root of the problem,” says Dr. Antonio Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. The association, headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, represents the interests of Hispanic-serving institutions, or colleges with enrollments that are at least 25 percent Latino.
Still, signs of progress for HSIs are evident on several fronts in 2000, within the Clinton
administration and on Capitol Hill:
n A White House conference on Hispanic student achievement last June brought together the private sector, HACU leaders and K-12 education experts. At that high-profile meeting,
President Clinton announced five key goals for Hispanic education, including higher college
 completion rates.
n Federal support for Hispanic-serving colleges, funded at just $10 million two years ago, is expected to reach $60 million — and possibly more — this fall. Both houses of Congress have approved bills that could mean a six-fold increase since 1998.
n New initiatives to promote college completion may provide funds for minority-serving
institutions, including Hispanic-serving colleges and universities.
n Presidential candidates increasingly are taking on the cause of Latino education. The
Republican candidate, Texas Gov. George W. Bush, recently proposed funding increases for
Hispanic-serving institutions, while Vice President Al Gore’s education agenda includes new grants and tax credits to promote college
Hispanic advocates note, however, that much work remains to be done. The Latino high school completion rate of 63 percent is far below the 88 percent rate for Whites and African Americans. Moreover, only about 12 percent of Hispanic youth earn college degrees.
 â€śUnder President Clinton’s leadership, there has been an increased focus on preparing Latino students to complete high school and go directly to college,” says Rep. Lucille
Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus. However, she notes, “We cannot afford to allow the growing population of Hispanic students to lag behind their peers in educational
For many advocates, last June’s White House strategy session was pivotal in raising awareness about Hispanic education
challenges. One new initiative called the 2010 Alliance will bring together the HACU,
private companies such as AT&T and Univision, and philanthropic organizations —
including the Ford and Kellogg foundations — to close the achievement gap between Latino students and White, African American and Asian students. The conference also yielded these results:
n Proctor & Gamble committed $50,000 to a White House Initiative on Educational
Excellence for Hispanic Americans, specifically for outreach services targeted to parents.
n The HACU will work with State Farm
Insurance Co., Target Corp. and others to
develop a corporate internship program for Hispanic college students that will build on an existing Hispanic federal internship program.
n Several federal departments will initiate new outreach efforts. The U.S. Department of Commerce will start a faculty exchange program with HSIs, while the U.S. Department of Agriculture will start a scholarship program for HSI students.
The White House meeting “generated exciting new ideas about how to accomplish our goals,” Roybal-Allard says. Congressional aides say they expect to attend a follow-up session in October to provide more details on these initiatives.
A federal grant program for Hispanic-serving institutions is another area of fast growth at the federal level. Funded under Title V of the Higher Education Act, the program received only $10 million to serve a few institutions in 1998. But Congress and the White House have approved funding increases, first to $28 million last year and $42 million this year. Both the House and the Senate reacted favorably to a White House proposal for at least $62 million in 2001.
As a result of this growth, more HSIs are receiving funding than ever before. In fact, 69 institutions became new HSI grantees in 2000, Flores says. These schools met the 25 percent Hispanic enrollment criteria to be classified as an HSI. As a result, more than half of the
nation’s approximately 200 Hispanic-serving colleges receive Title V funds.
HSIs use Title V grants for various
projects, from facility improvements to
faculty development and student services. However, unlike the Title III program for Black colleges, HSIs are not assured of
funding through their Higher Education Act
program, HACU officials note. The program still is competitive, which means that some
colleges remain unfunded. “There are many more colleges than funds available,” Flores says.
While HSIs likely will see more direct funds in 2001, there also is the prospect of more funds through new proposals to promote college retention. President Clinton has proposed $40 million for college completion grants, in which grantees would offer support services as well as additional grant funding for needy students. Another proposal would allow HSIs and Black colleges to work with other institutions to design “dual-degree” programs that may extend from baccalaureate education through graduate school.
Congress already is on record supporting the college completion grants, funded through the popular federal TRIO funding. The next challenge may be to get more HSIs into TRIO programs, since Hispanic-serving institutions traditionally are under-represented in these programs, Flores says. Moreover, in awarding new funds, TRIO regulators give a competitive advantage to existing grantees. “We have to make sure HSIs are better represented in TRIO,” he adds.
Finally, the presidential election is giving HSIs some new visibility. Bush recently made funding recommendations for Hispanic colleges and other minority-serving institutions. For HSIs, his plan would propose an extra $166 million over five years (see Black Issues, Sept. 14). Both Bush and Gore have proposed more money for Pell grants, while Gore also has given a high priority to new college tax credits.
“Financial aid is a critical factor,”
according to Flores, who welcomes these
proposals. Yet despite this progress, the HACU leader also calls for broader reforms to educate Hispanic adults and reform primary and secondary education, particularly to help youth get on course for college. Improvements in these areas also may result from the groundwork established in 2000. “We need to have a level playing field,” he says. 

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