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… 3,000 and counting – educational aid to underrepresented students

Several years ago, a number of educators, after deciding there were not enough Latinos enrolled in graduate schools around the country, created a program called “Helping 500 U.S. Hispanic Students into Graduate Schools.”


To keep apace of success, the program has undergone several name changes to keep up with the escalating numbers of students who are being helped. In fact, the group’s expanded scope is encompassed by its new name: Project 1000 — Moving Toward 5000 Underrepresented Graduate Students.


Project 1000, as it is popularly known, is based at Arizona State University in Tempe, now includes other minorities — in addition to Hispanics — who are considered “underrepresented.”


Since its founding in 1989, the program, whatever its na e at the time, has helped nearly 3,000 students to prepare for a d enroll in gradate schools around the country. The program I s new goal is to enroll 5,000 students as quickly as possible. This past academic year alone, 400 of 500 students helped by the program gained admission to graduate school.


`State of Affairs Worsening’


Although there is still a massive shortage of underrepresented students at the graduate school level, particularly Latinos, observers believe the project has had an appreciable impact in opening up opportunities for this population.


Currently, the U.S. Department of Education reports that Latinos make up approximately 10 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 4 percent of the nation’s graduate students. Similarly, African Americans are approximately 13 percent of the population, yet less than 7 percent of graduate students.

People of color are close to 30 percent of the U.S. population, but less than 15 percent of graduate students. According to an evaluation report by Project 1000’s Executive Director Gary Keller, and Director Michael Sullivan, “U.S. Hispanics are scarcely represented in graduate education, and the state of affairs has been worsening.”p Traditionally, all Latinos, except Cuban Americans, have been severely underrepresented in graduate schools. Cubans have been less underrepresented because many of the early immigrants came from higher social backgrounds and higher levels of education than other Latinos. The same has not been true for the later immigrants from Cuba.


Principal Objective


The principal objective of Project 1000 is to recruit, admit and graduate Latino and other underrepresented students. With one application, students are able to apply to seven of the more than 80 participating colleges and universities. Participation is free of charge to both students and the institutions. In total, the project works with more than 200 educational institutions.


The primary features of the project are:

bilingual (English/Spanish) academic advisors that answer questions regarding the application process and give advice to ensure turning in the best application possible;


on-site recruitment visits;


 financial aid advice;


 free GRE (Graduate Record Examination) workshops throughout the country; and


 A toll-free telephone number (1-800-327-4893) with four bilingual advisors available during work hours.


Busy Number


The students that Project 1000 targets are Latinos from poor backgrounds, says Sullivan, and from all fields — except law, medicine and business. Currently, Project 1000 has a large pool of students who are not yet seniors, but who will soon become eligible for graduate school. The project, which spends $50,000 per year on 800 advisement calls, handled more than 6,000 calls last year, with 53 percent of them from this not-yet-eligible pool.


The 800 number is a critical project component, says Sullivan. Without it, students generally would apply to only one or two graduate schools, says Sullivan. Students who take that route get turned down two-thirds of the time, he says, adding that applying to multiple schools and receiving solid financial aid offers beats those odds. Doing this without Project 1000 assistance would require a lot more time and money on the part of the student.


Variety of Backgrounds


The Mexican Americans the project recruits “are children of migrant workers and urban kids, not the children of professors,” says Sullivan. Many have attended community colleges. “We’re the proudest in terms of the work we’ve done at recruiting Puerto Rican students,” he says. Those from the island are from the rural and mountain areas, while those from the states are low-income, inner-city students.


A fair number of Cubans being recruited by Project 1000 are second generation, but many are immigrants themselves. The number of Central Americans is not huge, says Sullivan. “Our numbers are higher than the national norm, but there’s a lag because a lot of the immigrants who fled the civil wars in their home countries in the 1980s did not have a lot of schooling. They were adults without a lot of education and a lot of children. Given time, we’ll get more [of them] to apply,” Sullivan says that a project requirement is that students be either citizens or permanent residents.


The rationale for this is that Project 1000 does not target students who have received their education abroad. The objective is to recruit and increase the number of home-grown Latinos and other underrepresented groups. One of the reasons for the distinction is that in the past, colleges and universities have counted foreign students and foreign professors for purposes of affirmative action. “That might be OK, except that many foreign students and professors are normally from upper-class backgrounds, with little in common with Latinos who were either born or raised in the United States,” says Sullivan.


Perhaps in response to this situation, some colleges and universities accept applications from Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans only — as opposed to from all U.S.-born or raised Latinos. The project has discovered colleges in both Texas and California who do this, says Sullivan. To be able to accommodate the large Central American population that has immigrated to the United States in the past 15 years, colleges are going to have to change, he says.


New Emphasis


Project 1000 has placed a new emphasis on recruiting African Americans and Native Americans that live in the same regions as Latinos — including the Southwest, the upper and lower Rocky Mountain regions and the East Coast. The project works with various Native American, African American and Latino math/science alliances that fund undergraduate student scholarships. The alliances also serve as a pipeline for recruiting them into graduate schools.


The project, which began as a pilot program, has turned into a model program, says Sullivan. “The key to our success is that we look for the under achievers.”


COPYRIGHT 1996 Cox, Matthews & Associates

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