April 07, 2022

Castro, Padilla Introduce HERE Act to Address the Enduring Gap in College Completion for Hispanic Students

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Senator Alex Padilla (CA) led the bicameral, bipartisan introduction of the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment Act (HERE) Act, legislation that would address the enduring gap in college attendance and completion rates for Hispanic and Latino students. Specifically, the bill would create a new grant program to support partnerships and collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and school districts with high enrollments of Hispanic and Latino students.

“Despite the progress we’ve made in recent years to open the doors to higher education, Hispanic students still face an enduring college achievement gap,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “As Hispanic students become a larger share of the population, closing the achievement gap will strengthen our workforce and help every student achieve their career dreams. I’m proud to introduce the HERE Act, which will fund partnerships between colleges and school districts to ensure that Hispanic students are college-ready and supported throughout their education.”

“The stark gap in college attendance and completion rates for Latino students in the United States is unacceptable,” said Senator Alex Padilla. “We need to take action to invest in our students’ success and strengthen our workforce. The HERE Act would improve collaboration between local school districts and colleges and universities to ensure Latino students have the resources and support they need to succeed as they obtain higher education.”

“As the proud alumnus of one of New Jersey’s leading Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs) and the co-chair of the Hispanic-Serving Institutions Senate Caucus, I am proud to join Sen. Padilla in introducing this commonsense legislation that will provide additional resources for HSIs to develop stronger partnerships with school districts that serve a large percentage of low-income and Latino students,” said Senator Robert Menendez. “This bill will help support more Hispanic and Latino students in their pursuit of a higher education and greater academic and professional opportunities.”

“Young people of Hispanic origin face very specific and unique challenges when it comes to higher education,” said Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón. “Compared to other demographics, many of them are first-generation Americans, and do not have the first-hand experience or the benefit of guidance from parents regarding the college experience in the U.S. Many of them also face financial difficulties that further complicate their pursuit of a college degree. The HERE Act would provide Hispanic students with the tools and support they need, starting at the K-12 level, to effectively prepare for college coursework. This early investment will dramatically enhance their opportunity to obtain a college degree, and maximize their potential for educational and professional attainment.”

“HACU strongly supports the HERE Act and its focus on promoting collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions and their feeder school districts to improve post-secondary attainment and enhancing the course offerings, program quality, and overall functionality of the colleges, universities and school districts that educate the majority of Hispanic students,” said Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). “We thank Senator Padilla and Congressman Castro for their leadership and commitment to Hispanic student success with the introduction of the HERE Act and we look forward to working with them and co-sponsors of the Act to ensure passage of the bill and its enactment into law.”

“The HERE Act is a direct investment in the success of our Hispanic students,” said Ronn Nozoe, CEO of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). “This bill expands pathways for talented students to one day lead the same schools they grew up in through ‘grow your own’ programs. To meet our students’ unique needs, it’s crucial we invest in educators from and with an understanding of their communities. NASSP is excited to join Congressman Castro and Senator Padilla to move this legislation forward.”

“Grow Your Own (GYO) programs have proven to be an effective method in addressing teacher shortages within communities,” said Dan Domenech, Executive Director of AASA, The School Superintendents Association. “The inclusion of these programs in the HERE Act will not only help to address the overall teacher shortages but also increase diversity among the teacher workforce by investing in Hispanic-serving institutions. We are grateful to Rep. Castro and Senator Padilla for leading this effort.” 

“On behalf of the more than 26,000 members of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, I am pleased to extend our support for the HERE Act. College admission counseling professionals are well familiar with the barriers Hispanic students face in making the transition from secondary to postsecondary education,” said Angel B. Pérez, CEO of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC). “We commend Representative Castro and Senator Padilla for crafting legislation that recognizes the complexity of the college pipeline and proposes a holistic approach that aligns supports between K-12 and higher education to strive toward equity for Hispanic students in college access.”

"Hispanic serving institutions are an underutilized resource to grow the STEM workforce and efforts like the HERE Act would go a long way in increasing diversity and inclusivity in STEM. The scientific community must support efforts like this," said Sarina Neote, Director of Public Affairs, The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology.

In 2020, there were 62.1 million Hispanics in the U.S, comprising nearly 20 percent of the population. According to Census Bureau projections, there will be 111 million Hispanics living in the U.S in 2060. Despite Hispanic population growth, the current education system has failed to sufficiently support Hispanic college completion. At four-year institutions, Hispanic students are 12 percent less likely to graduate than their white peers. If this education gap persists, there will not be enough educated workers to fill the jobs left by retiring baby boomers, and household incomes for all Americans could drop by 5 percent

The HERE Act would support partnerships between HSIs and school districts with high enrollments of Hispanic and Latino students that focus on:

  • Creating a college-going culture for students
  • Improving school-based and institutional practices to prepare to prepare eligible students for postsecondary education and provide high-quality postsecondary remediation when needed
  • Supporting students through the college application and transition process
  • Addressing non-academic needs that serve as barriers to college enrollment and completion
  • Developing and offering ‘grow your own’ programs that encourage students to pursue teaching as a profession

Additionally, the bill would:

  • Promote and support PK-12 and higher education collaboration between HSIs and local educational agencies with high enrollments of Hispanic or Latino students
  • Expand and enhance the course offerings, program quality, and overall functionality of the colleges, universities, and school districts that educate the majority of Hispanic students
  • Authorize the Secretary of Education to provide grants and related assistance to HSIs for the development of model and innovative agreements between higher education and secondary schools.

Original Senate co-sponsors include: Senators Dianne Feinstein (CA), Robert Menendez (NJ), Dick Durbin (IL), Catherine Cortez Masto (NV), Martin Heinrich (NM) and Chris Murphy (CT).

Original House co-sponsors include: Reps. Sylvia R. Garcia (TX-29), Veronica Escobar (TX-16), Jimmy Panetta (CA-20), Grace F. Napolitano (CA-32), Nanette Diaz Barragán (CA-44), Jimmy Gomez (CA-34), Ruben Gallego (AZ-07), Salud Carbajal (CA-24), Dina Titus (NV-01), Jenniffer González-Colón (PR-AL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-AL), Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-02), Albio Sires (NJ-08), Steven Horsford (NV-04), Vicente Gonzalez (TX-15), Grace Meng (NY-06), Katie Porter (CA-45), Jamaal Bowman (NY-16), and Jesús G. “Chuy” Garcia (IL-04).

For a fact sheet on the HERE Act, click here.

For a section-by-section outline of the HERE Act, click here.

For the bill text of the HERE Act, click here.