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ANTONIO FLORES, PRESIDENT & CEO HISPANIC
ASSOCIATION OF COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) applauds and supports Senator George Allen’s legislative initiative to close the widening IT divide in American higher education.
HACU represents more than 300 institutions, including more than 200 Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), that collectively enroll three of every four of the 1.6 million Hispanics in U.S. higher education.

Our fast-changing global economy and national security priorities require the elimination of the “digital divide” in our country, particularly on college campuses. Underscoring this national imperative is a rapidly growing population of color led by Hispanic Americans, the fastest-growing, largest, and youngest ethnic population in America. Demographic changes, new demands from a global economy for a highly educated workforce, and pressing national security concerns combine to urge our nation to close the “digital divide” in higher education with due expediency.

The digital divide is not an empty buzzword, but an unfortunate reality in our nation. While all sectors of society are acquiring greater access to information technology and connectivity to the Internet, the gap between the better educated and those behind them is widening each year; not only in qualitative terms but quantifiably as well. The U.S. Department of Commerce series of reports, “Falling Through the Net,” and the recently published report, “A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet,” documents the divide between Hispanics and whites and Hispanics and the nation as a whole. The 2000 report, the last reporting on households, tell us that 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.

This same report documents that in 2000 Hispanics made almost 27% less individual use of the Internet than non-Hispanic whites. In the latest 2001 report the gap grew to over 28%. In short, Hispanics are slowly increasing computer and Internet access, but the digital divide between them and the rest of the nation’s population is getting wider rather than narrow.

Examining individual Internet use by age groups enables us to look at the traditional college-age population. In the 2000 report, Hispanics were 32.6 percentage points behind their non-Hispanic white counterparts (65.0%). The 2001 report, focusing on 18-24 year-olds actually in school or college, documents that Hispanics are almost 20% less likely than non-Hispanic whites to have a home computer and almost 25% less likely to use the Internet at home. This report highlights the importance of this bill and the importance of supporting our HSIs because the gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic whites lessens to 15% points when one considers outside home use, which for these students overwhelmingly means the school or college. The 15% gap is still large, but it is a sign of progress in the right direction. Similar patterns exist for ages 3 to 17 years. The 2000 report shows substantially large gaps between non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics overall. The latest 2001 report underlines that Congressional action is necessary to bridge the widening digital divide for our youth by increasing their access to technology in the school setting.

For all the above reasons, HACU unequivocally supports Senator Allen’s legislative initiative to provide much-needed federal assistance to HSIs and other Minority-Serving Institutions, so that they may be able to strengthen their information-technology infrastructure and institutional capacity. We urge all members of the 108th Congress to support Senator Allen’s bill as promptly as possible. The future of the nation hangs in the balance.

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