Hispanic Serving Institutions Struggle in Pandemic

Financing May 2021 PREMIUM
Hispanic enrollment fell by more than 5 percent during the fall 2020 semester amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Deborah Santiago, co-founder of Excelencia in Education that tracks student success in the nation’s designated Hispanic Serving Institutions.

More than 67 percent of undergraduate Hispanic students, almost 340,000, attend designated HSIs --  colleges or universities where more than 25 percent of undergraduates is Hispanic. The designation qualifies those institutions to compete for five-year federal grants that help build capacity to increase Hispanic student success.  “HSIs have grown exponentially, from about 189 colleges and universities to 539 as of last year,” Santiago told the Hispanic Outlook. “There was accelerating enrollment and increases in completion. But in 2020, that enrollment dropped, especially at the nation’s community colleges. Those HSIs with grants won’t lose their grants if they fall below the 25% Hispanic enrollment for a year or so, but emerging HSIs on the cusp of designation may find it more difficult to qualify.”

“HSIs just don’t have the reserves to use to pay for things that need to be used in lieu of regular campus life. I hope Congress zeros in on higher education as a national priority and on HSIs, and appropriates more funding. Increased government support is going to be vital for them”, Antonio R. Flores, president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities said. “We expect the Biden administration to double down on funding HSIs as part of their focus on equity,” said Santiago. “The growing number of HSIs must compete for a portion of funds in the same pie, unlike the set number of 101 Historic Black Colleges and Universities.  HSI funds go directly to the institution and about two-thirds go to faculty development for student support services including mentoring, tutoring and guided pathways.”

2020 Census Shows Number of Hispanics Has Grown, But…

The new decade’s demographic rite, as mandated in Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution to take place every ten years, just happened. The U.S. Census just revealed that as of April 1, the U.S. population was 331,449,281.  That ‘s 22.7 million or 7.4% more than in 2010. But it was the slowest growth in U.S. history except for 1930. The unprecedented slowing was blamed mainly on decreasing birth and fertility rates over the past decade and to the Trump administration’s restrictionist immigration policies since 2017.

While slowing rates have significant economic impacts – costs and revenue - the census data is intensely scrutinized for geographic and state political impacts as well. The number of representatives each state gets in Congress is determined by census data that also determines how billions of dollars of federal funds are distributed to each state. The 2020 census showed that the U.S. population had shifted from the Great Lakes and North East cities to the Southern and Western states. The Republican leaning states of Texas, Florida and North Carolina are set to gain four Congressional seats between them. Democratic leaning Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, California and New York as well as Republican voting Ohio and West Virginia will each lose a congressional seat. The census also showed that the U.S. population especially over 65 years old, will continue to grow at a far greater rate than the young population.

Hispanics accounted for more than half the gain in population in Texas, Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada. But that gain was lower than expected. That has brought up questions if the Hispanic population was significantly undercounted. “I’m not sure there’s any way to ever prove that,” said Democratic former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder who leads the national Democratic Redistricting Committee.  Detailed race and ethnicity census data will not be released until September when states must begin to resize their congressional districts according to the 2020 data.

But assuming that increasing numbers of Hispanic population will make a state vote more Democratic cannot be a given in 2022.  Hispanic voters – especially men - voted for Republicans at historic high levels in 2020 especially in Texas and Florida.  As conservatives, many Hispanics may be turned off by the Democratic sharp turn to the left since President Biden was inaugurated.

The U.S. is a Federal Republic; the Filibuster Reflects That Essential Fact

When this reporter first began to cover Congress 16 years ago, the essentials of U.S. government became clear: The U.S. has a federal (state-focused) democratic system of government, not a centralized one. Congress makes the laws; the President executes them; the Supreme Court has the final say as to their constitutionality.  But all Congressional politics comes down to state interests. The minority party and every state, no matter its size, has a powerful voice, especially in the Senate.

The House and the Senate work in different ways. The 435 House representatives are elected for two years and must remain close to their constituents and their political parties for support. In the House, discussion on the floor is limited in time. Legislation can be passed by a simple majority of one.   The 100 Senators are more independent; they are elected for six-year terms and by definition, have and are supposed to take more time to develop compromises with their colleagues from the other party. They are not supposed to be able to storm through a vote. Senators have no time limits - except physical - on how long they can speak on the floor. To come to ANY decision in the Senate, 60 of the senators must agree to stop the discussion (cloture) to take a vote.

The filibuster, which allows any Senator to delay or even impede a vote, is essential so that the minority party and small states have a strong tool to be heard. Dissolving the filibuster, as Democratic leaders want to do now and was done in 2014 for Supreme Court and presidential nominees, will backfire once they become a minority.  There are other ways to speed up the voting process than “going nuclear” and getting rid of the filibuster. 

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