College joins national Hispanic advocacy organization
Columbia Gorge Community College has become the first Hispanic-serving institution of higher education in Oregon to become a member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), a national organization centered on improving educational achievement for America’s largest minority group. According to the U.S. Department of Education, CGCC is also Oregon’s only Hispanic-serving institution of higher education as of the end of the 2016 calendar year.
“Our college’s mission is to build dreams and transform lives for all our communities, and the Hispanic community is a vital part of that mission,” explains Dr. Eric Studebaker, chief student services officer at CGCC. “Membership in the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities is extremely important to us,” Dr. Studebaker added. “We are one of only three colleges and universities in Oregon that support the association through membership, and we are proud to be the only one recognized as a Hispanic-serving institution. Achieving this designation and supporting the association is all about leadership in action, moving our institution forward to continuously improve services available to our students and community.”
Established in 1986, the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities today represents more than 470 colleges and universities committed to Hispanic higher education success in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Latin America, and Spain. It’s the only national educational association that represents Hispanic-Serving Institutions, defined as those with a minimum of 25 percent Hispanic enrollment.
“While our Hispanic enrollment currently stands at 26 percent, this does not adequately reflect our region’s demographics,” Dr. Studebaker noted. Hispanics now constitute 34 percent of the student population at North Wasco County School District and 43.5 percent of students enrolled in Hood River County School District. As those students graduate and look to opportunities for continuing education, it will be important for CGCC to ensure an open door, just as it does for all other cultures of the region.
“CGCC's membership in the association supports advocacy at a national level for the needs of our Hispanic community, not only for post-secondary education but also for the K-20 pipeline. In addition, the association provides many benefits for our students and employees, including student scholarships and internship opportunities, professional development, and publications that highlight best practices on improving higher education to support Hispanic student access and success,” Dr. Studebaker said.
Although association members represent only 10 percent of America’s higher education institutions, together they comprise more than two-thirds of all Hispanic college students, according to the association. Since its establishment, the association has taken a leading role in encouraging federal support for Hispanic-Serving Institutions, targeting federal appropriations. In 2016, for example, $107.8 million helped develop Hispanic-serving institutions through Title V of the Higher Education Act.