Small Gains in Latino Graduate Studies Linked to Funding

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Small Gains in Latino Graduate Studies Linked to Funding.

EL PASO, TX -- While the number of Latino graduate students has risen slightly in recent years, they remain underrepresented in all fields, according to the American Council on Education's report on minorities in higher education.

But some educators say that increasing graduate and professional school funding for Latino students is the key to bolstering the numbers. The small gains that have been made in Latino enrollment can be traced to funding from a host of nationwide initiatives and concerted efforts by national organizations, says George Castro, associate dean of the College of Science at San Jose State University (SJSU).

By bolstering the level of grants and scholarships for science, engineering and math, the results will become evident within the next few years, says Castro, the immediate past president of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS).

During the Reagan years, funding from the NSF earmarked for students of color in the sciences was negligible, says Castro. In 1990, for example, the funding level for such projects was between $60-$70 compared to the $600 million spent today.

Much of the NSF money goes to minority institutions, says Castro, primarily to historically Black colleges and universities and now increasingly to Hispanic serving institutions and tribal colleges.

Getting and maintaining funding for students of color in graduate school is the key to their success and also is becoming a growing concern, says Melissa Goitia-Werner, program coordinator for Arizona State University's Project 1000.

Project 1000 works to increase the number of Latino graduate students. Since 1988, the program has assisted nearly 1,500. When students use Project 1000 to apply to graduate school, one application is circulated to up to seven institutions and application fees are waived.

Like many college administrators, Goitia-Werner says she fears that the current anti-affirmative climate in the country will lead to a shortage of funds for the program. Without Project 1000, the chances of Latino students being admitted to graduate schools would decrease, she says.

To make a significant dent into the problem of minority underrepresentation in graduate education, support for the project must increase and new programs must be created as models, Goitia-Werner argues. In the future, Project 1000 will also be expanding to include Native American and African-American students, she says.

For most Hispanic students, completing an undergraduate degree can take up to seven years when money is a factor, says Gloria Zamora, executive director of educational programs at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. When faced with students loans, graduate and professional education becomes less of a prospect for many of those students, says Zamora.

"Money is at the root of many of the problems, especially with looming cuts in financial aid, there are not as many opportunities for Hispanic students to pay their own way to get their master's or Ph. …