March 17, 2016
HACU Hispanic-Serving Institutions delegations visit Capitol Hill
Walking into the corridors of the U.S. Capitol was a first-time experience for University of Houston-Downtown junior Chase Otts, who along with a group from his campus, attended the 21st Annual National Capitol Forum on Higher Education in Washington, D.C., on March 14-15, 2016.
With a notepad in one hand and a red folder with Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities' statistics in the other, he walked into the offices of Texas delegates confidently.
"I never thought I would meet representatives of the house and senate, or even their staff, and it was a great honor," Otts said. "Coming with HACU was an amazing experience."
Otts was one of nearly 100 students and other college and university representatives registered to visit with Congress at the nation's capital on March 15. Federal funding was the top issue attendees discussed with their state delegates in hopes of gaining additional support for Hispanic-Serving Institutions. The number of HSIs, now totaling 435, rises each year; however, funding has remained stagnant or decreased for the last six years.
For Eva Serrano, with the college of arts and sciences at Aurora University in Illinois, the Capitol Forum equipped her with the material she needed to advocate on behalf of the Hispanic students she represents in Illinois.
"To me it's about the students," Serrano said. "I've been at the university for 12 years and I spent 8 years in the classroom, so when I get the chance to talk about the importance of Hispanic student success, I'm talking about Lydia, Jaime, Adan and Juan – I'm representing all my students."
Serrano said attending Capitol Hill with other university representatives from across the nation showed their strength in numbers.
"Collectively, we're stronger, and HACU gives us that platform," Serrano said. "To meet individuals across the country who are just as concerned and passionate about serving our Latino students that just gives me the motivation and encouragement to keep going. This experience reminds us to keep going. We can do it. Together, mucho mejor."