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Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities
HACU Agenda: Issues and Objectives

Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA)

Background to the HEA

The Higher Education Act of 1965 was signed into law for the purpose of strengthening the capacity and access to higher education for all citizens of the United States. As part of the Johnson administration’s War on Poverty, the HEA has evolved into a complex and comprehensive series of programs that includes much of the original impetus for access and equity, but also provides funding for a host of enrichment and specialized programs for a diverse clientele of higher education constituencies. While the most visible minority groups of the Civil Rights Movement and its precursors were immediately covered explicitly in the original version of the HEA, it was not until several reauthorizations late, in 1992 that Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Hispanic Americans emerged as a part of the federal concern in higher education, as reflected in the HEA

In 1992 and again in October of 1998 the HEA was reauthorized after months of hearings, discussions, deliberations and testimony. The HEA was scheduled to be reviewed and reauthorized again during the 108th Congress in 2003. Each reauthorization has a life cycle of 5 years. Neither the 108th nor the 109th Congresses took definitive action, so reauthorization remains a task for the 110th Congress.  Since 1965 the HEA continues to be the cornerstone for all higher education efforts and initiatives emanating from congress for the economic and social well being of the United States.

Educational Scope of HEA

The Higher Education Act identifies various educational program categories, which are targeted to enhance the quality and access of higher education to all persons of the United States. These categories are:
    • Title I. General Provisions
    • Title II. Teacher Quality
    • Title III. Institutional Aid
    • Title IV. Student Assistance:
      • Part A. Grants to Students
      • Part B. Federal Family Education Loan Program
      • Part C. Federal Work-Study Programs
      • Part D. William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan Program
      • Part E. Federal Perkins Loans
      • Part F. Need Analysis
      • Part G. General Provisions
      • Part H. Program Integrity
    • Title V. Developing Institutions
    • Title VI. International Education Programs
    • Title VII. Graduate and Postsecondary Improvement Programs
    • Title VIII. Studies, Reports, and Related Programs
    • Title IX. Amendments to Other Laws

More detailed information on the HEA and the HEA Amendments for 1998 can be obtained by going to directly to the HEA Website

HSIs and the Higher Education Act

Since its inception in 1986, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) has championed the higher education success of the nation’s youngest and fastest-growing minority population. Today, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hispanics are the nation’s largest minority population. Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), which have a full-time student enrollment that is at least 25 percent Hispanic, serve the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students. HACU member HSIs and Associate Member institutions collectively educate more than two-thirds of all Hispanic higher education students. The reach of HACU and HSIs extends to pre-collegiate and lifelong education initiatives, which impacts the entire Hispanic community.

In 1992, HACU and its allies persuaded Congress to formally recognize and include HSIs in funding provisions of the Higher Education Act (HEA). However, actual funding for HSIs remains at levels far below the abundantly documented needs of these institutions. The first $12 million HEA appropriation to HSIs authorized by the 1992 legislation did not occur until FY 1995. Annual appropriations under what is now Title V have since increased to the latest $94.9 million Title V appropriation for fiscal year 2007.

Despite this progress, HSIs on average still receive only a fraction of funds per student compared to all other degree-granting institutions. This disparity is occurring at a time when what now is the nation’s largest minority population continues to be the nation’s youngest and still fastest-growing minority population.

The Higher Education Act, which is due for Reauthorization by Congress in 2007, remains the chief vehicle through which these disparities can be directly addressed. A preliminary HACU Work Plan has been prepared, based on the critical importance of addressing HEA issues throughout 2007 to best ensure that Hispanic higher education needs, issues, initiatives and programs receive highest priorities during this Reauthorization process.

HACU's Reauthorization Target Areas:

Those program areas within HEA that have the greatest potential for enhancing the infrastructure, quality, access and opportunities of HSIs for the benefit of Hispanics and other minorities attending these institutions follow with a brief summary of the purpose and rationale for targeting by HACU. This does not preclude the examination and analysis of all sections of the HEA where suggested amendments could be developed through the HACU sponsored regional meetings for submission to the HEA Reauthorization committees in the Senate and House for possible inclusion in 2007 Amendments to the HEA.

A. Title V: HSIs/Developing Institutions

HSIs historically and persistently receive a fraction of funds compared to all other degree-granting institutions. According to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data Systems (IPEDS) statistics of the U.S. Department of Education for the 2002-2003 school year, HSIs receive $8596 on average in total revenue per student, compared to $19,694 per student received by all degree-granting institutions.  That same year HSIs receive $1136 on average per student in federal funding (through direct appropriations or grants and contracts), compared to $2630 per student received by all other degree-granting institutions. Title V of the Higher Education Act remains the strongest, best-known vehicle within the HEA for direct funding support to HSIs.

B. Graduate Education

At a time when advanced skills are becoming a more important measure of future earnings, tax dollars and the nation’s economic strength, only 20 percent of HSIs offer a master’s degree. Less than 12 percent of HSIs offer a doctoral degree. Many under-funded HSIs, for reasons listed in the issues already stated, do not have the infrastructure to offer advanced degree programs. Fewer than 50 HACU member HSIs now have graduate programs in place. Funding for HSIs to spur the growth of graduate programs would contribute to reversing the persistent under-representation of Hispanics in teaching, science, technology and professional ranks.

C. Teacher Education

Already, HSIs award approximately 50 percent of all teacher education degrees earned by Hispanic higher education students. Numerous studies consistently point to links between educational attainment of minority populations and the diversity of teaching ranks as a measurable, contributing factor to the success of those students at every academic level. The shortage of Hispanic teachers correlates with the lack of funding for teacher education for the nation’s HSIs serving the largest concentrations of Hispanic higher education students. While 14 percent of the public school student population is Hispanic, only 4.3 percent of all teachers at those elementary and secondary schools are Hispanic.

HACU is a member of the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education, which also comprises the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Education (NAFEO) and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). A September, 2000 Alliance publication, “Educating the Emerging Majority: The Role of Minority-Serving Colleges & Universities in Confronting America’s Teacher Crisis,” reports that 37 percent of elementary and secondary school enrollment now comprises racial and ethnic minority students. This number is anticipated to exceed 50 percent by 2050. Despite this shift, classroom teachers are not broadly representative of the students they teach; indeed, nine of 10 teachers are non-Hispanic white.

D. Student Financial Aid

Federal direct student aid (grants) has declined dramatically in recent years, with burdensome student loans now exceeding direct grants -- a trend especially detrimental to low-income families, particularly to Hispanics. A two-fold approach is needed: an increase in the level of direct financial aid, and expanded support for federal programs designed to assist disadvantaged students to achieve academic success.

E. International Education Programs

International education programs since the terrible events of 9/11 have achieved new importance since the potential impact of global events on our national safety and security suddenly were presented in such a horrific manner. The HEA contains programmatic categories that could be revised to target new levels of funding to HSIs, which have inherently institutional expertise in multicultural teaching, administration and curriculum development.

F. Technology Related Issues

Technology needs across the academic spectrum can potentially be addressed, with actual funds and support targeted to HSIs, in every programmatic category of the HEA. The omission of targeted language within the HEA becomes especially detrimental against the backdrop of the national “digital divide” between minority and non-minority populations. Technology is changing its reach and impact so dramatically, and so rapidly, that targeted language could provide the practical foundation through which each new funding opportunity, critical skills need, initiatives and program could most effectively, most quickly be addressed by HSIs.

G. Research and Studies

Research and study opportunities must be addressed with language targeting such support specifically to HSIs. Under the status quo, for example, many federal agencies that specify funding and program support for outside entities often refer to minority-serving institutions in general, but not specifically to HSIs. Many HACU member colleges and universities, because of historic under-funding and program support inequities, currently lack resources to expand much-needed research and science education programs in areas of study where Hispanics are seriously under-represented, and in fields where national security needs are greatest. Hispanics are persistently under-represented in the hard sciences, health care and human services fields. The HEA is vehicle through which specifically targeted Amendments by Congress can close this gap.