Hispanic-Serving Institutions Make Impressive Strides

Article excerpt

But Leaders Say Funding Not Keeping Pace with Demographics

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:

* 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.

* 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.

* New initiatives to promote college completion may provide funds for minority-serving institutions, including Hispanic-serving colleges and universities.

* 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 attendance.

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.

"Under 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 achievement."

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:

* Proctor & Gamble committed $50,000 to a White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans, specifically for outreach services targeted to parents.

* 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.

* 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. …