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  WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) is urging swift passage of a new bill introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives to help close the technology gap for the nation’s minority college students.

U.S. Representative Randy Forbes of Virginia on May 21 introduced H.R. 2183, the Minority-Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Technology Opportunity Act of 2003.

The legislation would target $250 million in new National Science Foundation grants each year for the next five years to higher education institutions serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic and other minority students. The Senate in April unanimously passed similar legislation, S.196, which was introduced by Senator George Allen of Virginia.

“We applaud the leadership of Congressman Randy Forbes of Virginia for introducing this important legislation to the House. H.R. 2183 represents a critical investment in our country’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions and other Minority-Serving Institutions to close the digital divide between minority and non-minority populations,” HACU President and CEO Antonio R. Flores said. “For Hispanics, the nation’s youngest and largest ethnic population, this legislation is a very welcome step toward closing that gap.”

HACU represents more than 300 colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students in the United States -- including Hispanic-Serving Institutions, or HSIs, which have a full-time student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic.

According to a series of reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce on the digital divide, more than one half of U.S. households have computers and more than four of every ten have Internet access. For Hispanic households, the numbers are only one-third and about two of every ten, respectively.

“In this high technology economy, we can no longer afford to tolerate a technology gap that threatens the college and career success of our country’s fast-growing minority populations,” Flores said.

“HSIs and other Minority-Serving Institutions lack the traditional level of funding enjoyed by other higher education institutions to adequately address technology education needs. HSIs receive less federal funding per student on average than all other groups of degree-granting institutions,” he said. “This bill directly addresses those funding inequities by targeting more technology education support to minority students.”

The bill would provide grants for new technology equipment and infrastructure expansion, as well as new faculty development, classroom technology, training, technology partnership and technology education leadership development opportunities for eligible HSIs and other Minority-Serving Institutions.

The bill also would allow a waiver of the traditional matching-funds requirement for under-funded Minority-Serving Institutions with no endowment or with an endowment of less than $50 million in current value.

For more information, contact HACU national headquarters in San Antonio, Texas, at (210) 692-3805. Ext. 3214. Or visit www.hacu.net.