Bringing the University to the Student: Hispanic University Offers Increased Access to Higher Education for Spanish-Speaking Adults

By Martineau, Pamela | Diverse Issues in Higher Education, February 22, 2007 | Go to article overview

Bringing the University to the Student: Hispanic University Offers Increased Access to Higher Education for Spanish-Speaking Adults


Martineau, Pamela, Diverse Issues in Higher Education


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. …

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