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  The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) will propose record new investments in the higher education success of the nation’s youngest and largest ethnic population at HACU’s 2003 National Capitol Forum on Hispanic Higher Education, “Creating a New Framework for Our Future,” March 30-April 1 at the Washington Marriott Hotel in Washington, D.C.

“Our nation’s future economic success and security will depend in large part on the knowledge, advanced skills and leadership of a population group that makes up one of every three new workers entering the U.S. workforce, and which also comprises the fastest-growing segment of our school-age population,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores.

Leaders of HACU’s 340 member colleges and universities will join leading representatives of Congress, the White House and key federal agencies at this annual national platform for promoting Hispanic college and career success to Congress and the country.

Capitol Forum sessions will invite educators and public policy makers to address issues ranging from new demographic and minority education trends to current national policy developments and court rulings impacting America’s fast-growing Hispanic communities.

The rapid growth of the Hispanic population is reflected in the corresponding rise in the number of federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), which serve the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students in the United States.

HACU member and partner colleges and universities are now located in 23 states and Puerto Rico, in addition to an international membership in seven Latin American countries and in Spain. “Three of every four of the country’s 1.6 million Hispanic college students attend a HACU-member institution. HACU-member campuses enroll more than 4.6 million students from all walks of life across the nation, which also makes HACU the voice of nearly one-third of the nation’s higher education community,” Flores said.

As the only nationally recognized voice for HSIs, HACU will present its formal 2003 Legislative Agenda for federal Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 during the Capitol Forum. HACU also will present a set of Public Policy Priorities for the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, which will determine federal spending for all higher education institutions for the next five years.

Although HSIs serve the largest concentrations of what also has become the fastest-growing segment of the U.S. college-age population, HSIs continue to receive substantially less federal funding on average compared to all other degree-granting institutions. This inequity is exacerbated by the fact that HSIs serve a population that is disproportionately low-income, and which suffers the lowest high school and college completion rates of any major population group.

“The rising costs of college, coupled with the current constraints on state budget and private-sector contributions to higher education in this uncertain economy, has created a tremendous crisis for our country’s already under-funded HSIs,” Flores said.

“Every one of us has a stake in providing our HSIs the support they must have to adequately prepare such a vital part of our future workforce, defense, entrepreneurial and leadership ranks,” Flores said.

A key “grass roots” component to HACU’s Capitol Forums is a day of visits to Capitol Hill, during which presidents and chancellors from HACU member colleges and universities will meet with House and Senate members about Hispanic education and workforce training needs in every state.

Distinguished keynote speakers will address daily Capitol Forum special sessions. A closing reception will honor members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, the Senate Hispanic-Serving Institutions Coalition and other supporters of HACU and Hispanic higher education.

For more information, contact HACU’s national headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, at (210) 692-3805 or HACU’s Washington, D.C., office at (202) 833-8361. Visit www.hacu.net for a complete Capitol Forum Agenda and comprehensive reports on HACU’s Mission, Membership and Legislative Priorities.