Bringing the University To the Student
Hispanic University offers increased access to higher education for Spanish-speaking adults.
By Pamela Martineau
Venezuelan immigrant Lorena Saczek opened a house-cleaning business in Utah after she earned her associate business degree — and became fluent in English — at Hispanic University in Salt Lake City.
One of the first graduates from the university that opened in 2002, Saczek, 40, says the program helped her develop both English and business acumen. That combination bolstered her confidence enough to allow her to pursue her dream of becoming a small business owner.
“They teach you how to be successful when you build a business,” says Saczek, who formerly worked as a housekeeper. “They teach you to be more independent — and how to speak English.”
Started in Provo, Utah, by retired Brigham Young University professor Arturo De Hoyos, Hispanic University has recently expanded to Mexico and Bolivia. The growing university has graduated more than 100 students, offering associate and bachelor’s degrees in business administration, computer science, international business and other fields.
The university also offers intensive English language instruction, which De Hoyos says is key to helping Spanish-speaking students advance professionally in the United States and other countries.
“We emphasize first the English language,” he says.
The goal of Hispanic University, De Hoyos says, is to educate Spanish-speaking working adults who may have cut their educations short. Many of these students abandoned their dreams of a college degree because they weren’t fluent in English and were intimidated about attending a conventional U.S. university where classes are taught in English.
In Mexico and Latin America, many prospective students had been forced to cut their educations short for financial reasons. English instruction is emphasized for these students as well because job opportunities in their native countries increase dramatically if they can speak English and have a degree, says De Hoyos.
All professors at Hispanic University speak Spanish and English. Course lectures are delivered in Spanish, while the textbooks are in English. Offering lectures in students’ primary language allows students to more easily absorb course content, De Hoyos says.
“All of our professors are bilingual, so we can handle any problem or question in Spanish if necessary, so the student feels free to ask any questions and interact,” he adds.
The location of Hispanic University’s campuses were also designed to increase access to higher education for Spanish-speaking working adults. Classes are taught in “learning centers” scattered throughout towns or communities in Mexico and Bolivia. Other learning centers, often located in strip malls, are planned for Las Vegas and several South American countries.
Currently, the only learning center operating in the United States is in Salt Lake City. But there are four up and running in Mexico: Casas Grandes, Chihuahua City, Ciudad Juarez and Tijuana. Campuses are also operating in Montero and Santa Cruz in Bolivia.
“We are taking the university to the students,” says De Hoyos. “We are not taking the student to the university.”
The first Hispanic University center opened in 2002 in Provo, but De Hoyos recently moved the center to Salt Lake City, where he believed it could benefit more students. He says he wants to keep the centers small. Each one enrolls about 100 students. If a center’s student population grows to about 120, he says the staff will work to open a new center nearby.
“We think we have invented something new,” he says. “We don’t want people to travel [to get an education.] We don’t want people to leave their job. We don’t want them to leave their families.”
Tuition in the United States is about $950 per semester. In Mexico, it is
$850 U.S. dollars — less in the southern region of the country.
De Hoyos says he employs about 50 professors — about five to eight at each site — many of whom are retired university professors.
The university is still working to secure accreditation, a process that can take four to five years, De Hoyos says.
Karen Hoyer, a retired BYU professor, has watched Hispanic University expand over the past five years.
“He’s meeting a need,” she says of De Hoyos’ growing university. “These are people who need to get an education here in the United States … They are able to upgrade their skills.”
For more information on Hispanic University, visit www.universidadhispana .com.mx.
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