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 July 10, 2003 WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) today urged Congress to support legislation providing substantial new technology support to the Hispanic higher education community.

In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Research, HACU requested support for the proposed Minority-Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Network Technology Opportunity Act. The bill would provide as much as $250 million annually in new federal funding for technology education at colleges and universities serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic and other minority students.

“Hispanic and other minority populations have dramatically less access to our rapidly evolving technologies than non-minority populations,” testified Ricardo Fernández, president of Herbert H. Lehman College of the City University of New York and a member of the HACU Governing Board.

Fernández praised the Senate for its unanimous vote in favor of S.196, the Senate version of H.R. 2183 and H.R. 2272 – twin versions of the bill now before the House. H.R. 2183 was introduced by U.S. Representative Randy Forbes of Virginia. U.S. Representative Edolphus Towns of New York introduced H.R. 2272.

Fernández cited a series of recent reports from the U.S. Department of Commerce on the widening “digital divide” between minority and non-minority populations. According to those reports, more than one half of U.S. households have computers and more than four of every ten have Internet access; for Hispanic households, only one-third have computers and only about one-fifth have Internet access.

Historically under-funded Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions must receive substantial new federal funding to best address the digital divide, testified Fernández, who also is board chair of the American Association of Higher Education. HSIs have a student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic. At Lehman College, where Fernández has served as president for the past 13 years, the student enrollment is 44 percent Hispanic.

The need for substantial new technology funding is especially critical for HSIs, which serve the country’s youngest and largest ethnic population, Fernández said, citing the continuing under-representation of Hispanics in technology fields. Hispanics, which make up the fastest-growing school-age population, suffer the lowest high school college graduation rates of any major population group.

“HSIs -- by their mission, expertise and location in the fastest-growing Hispanic population centers in 26 states and Puerto Rico – are the most effective resource to address these challenges. HSIs can best equip our Hispanic students with the advanced education and skills they must have to fully contribute to our country’s domestic economy and global leadership,” he said. “Yet, HSIs receive only a fraction of federal funding per student on average compared to all other degree-granting institutions.”

The proposed Minority-Serving Institution Digital and Wireless Network Technology Opportunity Act would provide grants for new technology equipment and infrastructure expansion. The bill would also provide funding for new faculty development, classroom technology, training, technology partnership and technology education leadership development opportunities for HSIs and other Minority-Serving Institutions.

HACU represents more than 300 colleges and universities that collectively serve more than two-thirds of Hispanic higher education students in the United States.

“Dr. Fernández today proved a compelling spokesman for HACU and the Hispanic higher education community,” said HACU President and CEO Antonio Flores. “We are hopeful the House of Representatives will add its unanimous vote to that of the Senate to pass this legislation of such tremendous importance to our Hispanic communities and to our country’s future.”

For more information, contact HACU Legislative Affairs Director Luis Maldonado at (202) 833-8361. Or visit www.hacu.net.