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College Officials Lobby Congress For Boost

College Officials Lobby Congress For Boost
In Hispanic-Serving Institution Funding

By Charles Dervarics

Hispanic-serving colleges and universities are asking Congress to create a new $125 million program to enhance graduate education under Title V of the Higher Education Act. That title currently supports an undergraduate education program for two- and four-year Hispanic-serving institutions, currently funded at $95 million.

About half of all Hispanic students attend HSIs.

Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, D-Texas, introduced such a measure in the House, along with more than 80 co-sponsors. The House Committee on Education and the Workforce passed the measure — earmarking $59 million for HSI graduate programs — as a part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. A companion bill from Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., is pending in the Senate.

Both bills also propose to increase the undergraduate program to $175 million, nearly double the current funding. Dr. Jose Jaime Rivera, president of the University of the Sacred Heart in Puerto Rico, notes that HSIs currently receive less than half of the per-student funding given to other degree-granting institutions. Rivera also called for a new section of Title V with funding to help HSIs improve their technology infrastructure.

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities and other leaders also have asked Congress to allow Title V funds to go toward articulation agreements between two- and four-year institutions. Many HSIs are two-year colleges.

Rivera also asked Congress to eliminate a requirement that HSIs have at least 50 percent low-income students in order to qualify for Title V funds. “This additional regulatory burden … is not required of other minority-serving institutions and should be eliminated,” he says.

Historically Black colleges have no such requirement. The income test is one of two major parameters to gauge eligibility for the program; colleges also must have at least 25 percent Hispanic enrollment.
With the Higher Education Act up for renewal this year, Congress also has a rare opportunity to address the growth of the Hispanic population and its effect on higher education. This growth ultimately may lead to a significant increase in the number of Hispanic-serving colleges and universities nationwide, says Dr. Tomás Arciniega, president emeritus at California State University at Bakersfield.

Citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Arciniega says that there are more than 90 colleges and universities with Hispanic enrollments of 18 percent to 24 percent. He said these likely will become HSIs in the near future, after they cross the 25 percent threshold. Currently, there are more than 240 HSIs.

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