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SAN ANTONIO, Texas – The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) was awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Science Foundation to develop a new blueprint for increasing the ranks of Hispanic professionals in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields.

“Because Hispanics represent the nation’s youngest and largest ethnic population, as well as the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. work force, we must act quickly to reverse the current shortage of Hispanic professionals in these high-demand fields requiring advanced degrees. Otherwise, we risk losing out on a higher level of knowledge and skills we need not only for our country’s future economic success, but also for our national security,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio Flores.

“The National Science Foundation is to be commended for its foresight in enlisting those colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of our Hispanic higher education students as the most direct, effective means to address this national dilemma,” Flores said. “We are deeply grateful for this new, urgently needed support from the National Science Foundation.”

HACU will lead a nationwide study of the state of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education at its member Hispanic-Serving Institutions. This study ultimately will lead to a series of short-term and long-term recommendations on how to best address STEM education needs in the Hispanic higher education community.

Hispanics, who suffer historically low high school and college graduation rates overall, earn only a small percentage of master’s (4 percent) and doctoral (4 percent) degrees overall compared to non-Hispanic whites. According to the 2000 NCES Digest of Education Statistics, Hispanics in 1997 represented only 5 percent of graduate students, while non-Hispanic whites represented 81 percent of graduate students. Black/African-Americans represented 8 percent of all graduate students.

A special HACU Task Force, composed of faculty and researchers with National Science Foundation expertise from HACU member Hispanic-Serving Institutions, will study common barriers to advanced degree attainment and identify STEM infrastructure, faculty and student preparation needs at the nation’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs).

While HSIs represent only about 5 percent of all higher education institutions, they enroll approximately half of all Hispanic higher education students. Federally designated HSIs are defined as having a full-time student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

According to a U.S. Education Department National Council on Educational Statistics (NCES) Report in 2002 on HSIs, based on the 1999-2000 school year, doctoral degrees accounted for less than 1 percent of all degrees awarded by HSIs.

“Unless Hispanic Americans and our nation reverse the stubbornly persistent trends of educational under-representation of Hispanics in advanced degree programs, America’s STEM work force is at high risk,” said Rene A. Gonzalez, HACU Director of Program Collaboratives, who will coordinate the National Science Foundation-funded study.

“Given the nearly 60 percent increase in overall Hispanic population growth between 1990 and 2000, Hispanic enrollment at HSIs will likely increase significantly in coming years. HACU and HSIs are uniquely positioned to address the challenge of expanding a Hispanic work force trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” Gonzalez said.

HACU (www.hacu.net) represents more than 340 member and partner colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students in the United States.

For more information, contact Rene A. Gonzalez, HACU Director of Program Collaboratives, at (210) 692-3805, Ext. 3223, or by email at ragonzalez@hacu.net. For more information about HACU, visit www.hacu.net.

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