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Latinos get small slice of funding pie for minority colleges and universities

Hispanic-Serving Institutions got $87 per student in funding from a federal program for minority-serving colleges, according to a Center for American Progress analysis.
People use a footbridge over University Avenue on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe.
People use a footbridge over University Avenue on the campus of Arizona State University on Sept. 1, 2020, in Tempe.Matt York / AP file

Despite growing numbers of Latino students in higher education, a federal program that funds colleges that serve minority students provided $87 per Latino student enrolled at Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) last year, the Center for American Progress reported Tuesday.

The program provides $1,642 per Black student enrolled at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). Spending for students at higher education institutions controlled by tribal nations was $3,197 per student, according to Viviann Anguiano, associate director for postsecondary education at the liberal Center for American Progress.

Anguiano, one of the report's authors, called on the federal government to invest $1 billion in HSIs, which collectively enroll 2.5 million Latinos. That investment would bring spending on Latino students to about half of what is spent on students at HBCUs, she said.

An HSI is defined as an eligible institution of higher education that has a student body that is at least 25 percent full-time, undergraduate Hispanic students.

The money comes from a 30-year-old federal program that supports Minority Serving Institutions. HBCUs, those serving Native Americans and institutions serving Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians and Asian American and Native Pacific Islanders are included in the program.

Anguiano emphasized that increased funding for HSIs shouldn’t come at the expense of other minority-serving institutions.

“This is certainly a case of systemic racism and this is a symptom of structural inequality," Anguiano said.

"We know communities of color receive less funding for schools and parks and all kinds of things. I would say this further demonstrates there are disparate outcomes and disparate attention given to Latinos, Black and Native Americans and people of color in this country," she said.

The funding for Minority Serving Institutions has always been low and has become even more inadequate given increases in Latino student enrollment, Anguiano said.

HBCU’s funding is based on a formula that allows all eligible colleges to get funding while HSIs must compete for grants.

“This means while eligible losing colleges don’t get any funding, winning colleges receive more than the overall figure of $87 per targeted student would suggest,” Anguiano stated in her report.

HBCUs and tribal colleges and universities have a legacy of serving Black and Native American students in direct response to racial discrimination, making it appropriate for them to get more funding, she said.

HSIs are seen as having come about as a result of the growth of Latino student populations, although in Texas, a landmark civil rights lawsuit forced the state to improve funding and quality of universities in areas along the border where larger Latino populations lived.

Some HSIs qualify as an HSI, but do not demonstrate a commitment to serving Latino students, Anguiano said.

Latino students who attend Hispanic Serving Institutions have been shown to be more likely to stick with their studies than those who attend non-HSIs, according to a 2016 Excelencia in Education report that looked at how long students stay enrolled in school and continued with studies.

Congress already has acknowledged the importance of Minority Serving Institutions by setting aside $1 billion in the pandemic relief law known as the CARES Act. The law gave HSIs get 20 percent, $193 million, and $447 million to HBCUs get $447 million, according to an Excelencia in Education breakdown.

Anguiano said the CARES Act funding “recognizes that students of color are disproportionately impacted by the pandemic” since many Latino students are more likely to have parents who are essential workers, have to work themselves or other issues.

“Major investment in HSIs would not only pay off for one of the fastest-growing populations in the United States, it would pay off for everyone by contributing to the pandemic recovery,” Anguiano said.

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