February 18, 2005

HACU praises introduction of two Hispanic graduate education bills

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) praised the introduction in Congress this week of two Hispanic graduate education bills to meet the advanced education needs of the nation’s youngest and largest ethnic population.

“The 109th Congress is being asked to make an investment in graduate education at those colleges and universities which serve the largest concentrations of Hispanic students. We applaud the tenacious leadership of Senator Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico and Congressman Ruben Hinojosa of Texas for re-introducing these important bills,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores.

“This legislation will benefit all of us in providing the nation’s Hispanics, who currently make up one of every three new workers joining the workforce, the advanced knowledge and skills so necessary to our nation’s future economic success, security and global leadership,” Flores said.

Congressman Hinojosa, chair of the Education Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, on Thursday introduced the “Next Generation Hispanic-Serving Institutions” bill, HR 761, which would also enhance existing undergraduate programs at Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs. The nation’s more than 240 HSIs have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. Senator Bingaman introduced companion legislation in the Senate with the same title, S 357.

The House bill was introduced with the bipartisan support of 80 House co-sponsors and the Senate bill with 5 co-sponsoring Senators. “We are gratified by the tremendous support for this legislation from so many leading members of Congress who share Senator Bingaman’s and Congressman Hinojosa’s commitment to Hispanic educational access and achievement,” Flores said.

The leadership of HACU’s 400 member colleges and universities, including HSIs, has joined HACU in urging swift passage of the “Next Generation HSIs” legislation. HACU’s membership collectively serves more than two-thirds of the nation’s 1.6 million Hispanic higher education students.

The bills would authorize $125 million in new federal spending each year on graduate education enhancements beginning in federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 by adding a new graduate education component to Title V of the Higher Education Act (HEA).

“Although Hispanics make up over 12 percent of the U.S. population, they currently earn only about 5 percent of master’s degrees, 3 percent of doctoral degrees and 5 percent of first professional degrees. These bills directly address the need to increase the numbers of under-represented Hispanics in the fields of teaching, science, engineering, medicine and technology that demand advanced degrees,” Flores said. “This legislation will build a better future for all of us.”

The “Next Generation HSIs” bills would also enhance undergraduate education for HSIs by providing important amendments to Title V of the Act as part of the reauthorization of the HEA now under way in Congress. Reauthorization will determine federal spending priorities for all higher education institutions for the Act’s next five-year cycle.

“For Hispanics, who suffer the lowest high school and college graduation rates of any major population group, the ‘Next Generation’ bills provide comprehensive support to substantially increase the numbers of Hispanic Americans obtaining undergraduate and graduate degrees,” Flores said.

In addition to providing new graduate program support, the bills would increase the funding authorization level for undergraduate education at HSIs to $175 million under Title V of the HEA, beginning in FY 2006. Undergraduate Title V appropriation for HSIs for FY 2005 totaled $95.1 million.

Since more than half of all Hispanic higher education students now attend two-year community colleges, the bills would allow Title V funds for the first time to be used for articulation support programs to ease the transfer of two-year students to four-year colleges and universities.

The bills would also reduce regulatory burdens now hampering the efforts of many HSIs to obtain competitive Title V grants. The bills would eliminate the two-year wait-out period between applications for Title V grants and also eliminate the 50 percent low-income assurance requirement from the federal definition of HSIs.

“Although HSIs are at the forefront of every major effort to serve the fastest-growing college-age population, HSIs on average receive only about half the funding per student accorded to all other degree-granting institutions. These bills comprehensively address this inequity,” Flores said.

During the last HEA reauthorization cycle seven years ago, Congressman Hinojosa introduced the “Higher Education for the 21st Century Act.” Passage of that Act led to new recognition for the national role of HSIs in higher education under a new Title V of the HEA, as well as substantial new multi-million dollar annual Title V appropriations for HSIs in every subsequent year.

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