September 14, 2023

Reps. Castro and González-Colón, Senator Padilla Introduce HERE Act to Close Achievement Gap for Hispanic and Latino Students in Higher Education

WASHINGTON – Today, Congressman Joaquin Castro (TX-20), Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón (PR), and Senator Alex Padilla (CA) introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act, legislation that aims to provide Hispanic and Latino students with the tools and support they need to close the enduring achievement gap they face in higher education. Specifically, the bill would create a new federal grant program to fund partnerships that focus on improving college readiness and completion between Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and school districts with significant Hispanic and Latino enrollment.

“As the Latino population in our country grows, our students are entering college in record numbers, but they face persistent challenges as they work to earn their degrees,” said Congressman Joaquin Castro. “The partnerships supported by the HERE Act will fund programs to prepare Hispanic and Latino students for college success – facilitatingsmoothertransitionsand leveling the playing field for getting to graduation. Supporting these students in their pursuit of higher education is an essential priority that will ensure we have the strong workforce needed to sustain the country’s future while empowering Hispanic and Latino students to achieve their dreams.”

“I am proud to join my colleagues in reintroducing the bipartisan HERE Act. This bill allows Hispanic-serving institutions to collaborate with school districts to ensure students from the K-12 level have the necessary tools to prepare for college coursework effectively. A successful education during the student's formative years increases the chances of a college education, especially for those who are the first in their family to go to college, enabling them to achieve their full potential and secure a better future for themselves and their families,” said Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón.

“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 Hispanic-Serving Institutions to ensure Latino students have the resources and support they need to succeed in higher education.”

“HACU wholeheartedly endorses the HERE Act to create a path of success and opportunity for Hispanic students across the nation, who are still grappling with achievement gaps and the challenge of coordinating PK-12 and higher education collaborations. We are eager to join forces with Rep. Castro, Rep. González-Colón, and Senator Padilla to champion this bill through Congress, which will go far in fostering a college-going culture, provide expanded support in the path through college and beyond, and address the needs students must meet outside the classroom to ensure their successful course to graduation,” said Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).

"NASSP is honored to once again sponsor the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment Act, and our members offer their heartfelt thanks to Senator Alex Padilla, Congressman Joaquin Castro and their teams for their leadership on this vital legislation," said National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP) CEO, Ronn Nozoe. "Strengthening collaboration between school districts and Hispanic Serving Institutions is essential to set students up for success on day one in college. Given the exorbitant costs of remediation on both higher learning institutions and students’ futures, this act will undoubtedly pay for itself many times over when enacted."

“A college degree remains one of the greatest equalizers and vehicles for economic mobility for Latinos, and it is important to invest in programs that expose Latinos to the idea of college earlier on, prepare them to enroll and succeed in college, and offers them a clear pathway for the types of careers they can enter after graduation,” said Amanda Fernandez, CEO and Founder of Latinos for Education. “The HERE Act would provide more Latino students, who will soon make up 30% of our nation’s student population, with the support and programs they need to be college-ready by the time they graduate high school, and at the same time expose them to careers in teaching and the education sector, which is critical for maintaining a robust and diverse educator workforce.”

The Census Bureau estimates the Hispanic population in the United States grew to roughly 63.7 million in 2022. Despite that growth, the current education system has failed to sufficiently support Hispanic college completion. 28 percent of Latino adults have an associate degree or higher, compared to 48 percent of white adults, and the graduation rate of Hispanics at four-year institutions was 13 percent lower than their white peers. If this education gap persists, there will not be enough educated Latino workers to fill the jobs left by retiring baby boomers.

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

  • Creating a college-going culture for students through programs that promote early exposure to the opportunities provided by higher education.
  • Improving school-based and institutional practices to fully prepare high school students for the academic demands of college, such as opportunities for advanced coursework.
  • Supporting students through the college application and transition process.
  • Addressing non-academic needs that serve as barriers to college enrollment and completion, such as housing and food insecurity.
  • Developing and offering ‘grow your own’ programs that encourage students to pursue teaching as a profession.

Additionally, the bill would:

  • Promote and support Pre-K-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 U.S. 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.

The HERE Act is endorsed by the Hispanic Association of College and Universities, Latinos For Education, National Association of Secondary School Principals, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Education Association, UnidosUS, All4Ed, TeachPlus. Campaign for College Opportunity, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Association of Community Colleges.