Established in 1986 as the first organization committed to the success of Hispanics in higher education, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
HACU began with 18 founding member institutions and has grown to include 412 colleges and universities from across the country, in addition to several international chapters. Although HACU member schools in the U.S. represent only 10 percent of all higher education institutions nationwide, together they attract more than two-thirds of all Hispanic college students.
HACU President and CEO Antonio Flores credits the organization’s success largely to its advocacy work and increases in governmental funding over the last quarter of a century.
“In 1992, for the first time, the Higher Education Act made a concession that created Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) in this nation and laid the groundwork for funding to be allocated by Congress,” Flores says. “We started with $12 million in 1995. Today, about $225 million is committed annually, and over the last 30 years, more than $3 billion has been allocated to HSIs.”
HACU’s efforts have focused on coordinating leadership, scholarship, and fellowship programs, as well as partnerships with corporations and government agencies. Specifically, the HACU National Internship Program (HNIP) annually places about 500 students in paid internships with the federal government and corporations, and since the program’s inception 20 years ago, Flores says the organization has placed more than 12,000 students.
“There were no programs [geared toward Latino students] before HACU,” he says. “[Students who participate in HNIP] make connections with people in their fields, learn to be self-sufficient and successful, and move their aspirations much higher than they might have thought possible.”
During the last decade, HACU also developed a K-12 higher education collaborative initiative that provides scholarship and dual-credit opportunities for Hispanic students. In addition, HACU urges its member institutions to work more closely with K-12 schools, particularly middle and high schools with large Latino populations.
“The rate of [college] enrollment after [high school] graduation is increasing every year, and we’re moving many more students into STEM fields,” says Flores. “Thirty years ago, the percentage of Latinos in college was about 7 or 8. Today, we are almost at 20 percent.”
HACU projects that Hispanics will comprise nearly 74 percent of all new workers joining the American labor force between 2010 and 2020, which Flores says represents an opportunity and a challenge for the organization.
Furthermore, this population is a major resource for the U.S. “We are a bilingual, bicultural, and international community that could be a great help to the nation in remaining competitive in the global economy,” Flores says.
Although he is pleased with what HACU has accomplished over the last 30 years, Flores says there is still much work to be done — and funding to secure.
“We believe the best is yet to come because we still have a long way to go,” he says. “We need to close the huge gap that exists in terms of federal government support for HSIs, which get about 69 cents for every federal dollar that goes to the rest of higher education.”●
Lauren Healey is a senior staff writer for INSIGHT Into Diversity. For more information about HACU, visit hacu.net.