After years of rising Latino enrollment at Sacramento State and Sacramento City College, both campuses will receive millions of federal dollars by qualifying as Hispanic-Serving Institutions for the first time.
Twenty-seven percent of Sacramento State’s students and 29 percent of Sacramento City College’s students were Latino in 2014, according to data from the schools. A college becomes eligible for HSI funding when at least 25 percent of its students are Latino.
Over the next five years, Sacramento City College will receive $2.62 million and Sacramento State will get $2.4 million.
California State University, Sacramento, plans to use the money to add peer mentoring and open a data research center that will help the university determine which classes are most effective and identify course bottlenecks. The goal: decrease the six-year graduation rate and the achievement gap for Latinos and other underrepresented students.
“Many of our Hispanic students have been migrant students,” CSUS President Robert Nelsen said. “Many speak Spanish at home. We need to be able to help them as they adjust to the university and we need to be there for them to make certain that they are successful.”
Sacramento City College will use its money to start a program in the spring that will offer support and enrichment programs to 60 Latino students the first year. The college plans to add 60 students each year of the grant until there are 300 students in the program.
The federal Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program is part of the Higher Education Act of 1965. The highly competitive grant program, established in 1992, requires that schools submit plans outlining how they will spend the money to support Latino and other underrepresented student populations.
29 Percentage of Sacramento City College students last school year who were Latino.
The number of Latino students at Sacramento City College increased 6.3 percent from 2010 to 2014, according to data from the school. Sacramento State saw an 8 percent increase in its Latino population over the same period, while the enrollment share of Latino students has nearly doubled since 2004.
Both schools said their enrollment increases have come at the same time the regional Latino population has grown. That population in Sacramento County grew by about 60,000, or 4 percent, from 2010 to 2014, according to the Census Bureau.
Beyond that, Nelsen said, Sacramento State has made a concerted effort to recruit Latino applicants. Sacramento City College pointed to a 2012 partnership with Sacramento City Unified School District called the Sacramento Pathways Program, which is designed to ease the transition from K-12 to community college and Sacramento State, said Christine Hernandez, SCC dean of financial aid and student services.
Students in the new Sacramento City College program will begin their college experience with a Summer Bridge program that includes an orientation, basic skills instruction and the development of an education plan.
Once school begins, students will take core classes together and participate in a technology boot camp, professional development courses, financial awareness classes and service projects, Hernandez said. The program will be called Students in a Global Economy, or SAGE.
The support will include counseling, tutoring and mentorships, as well as a textbook library, she said.
“When they commit to being part of the program, they get a lot of support,” Hernandez said.
Angelica Garcia, 22, has been at Sacramento City College for four years. She nearly dropped out two years ago. The Luther Burbank High School graduate said she was unprepared for community college when she enrolled.
“I didn’t know how to study, how to attend class,” she said. “I didn’t have motivation. ... I didn’t really have a goal.”
Garcia said she found guidance when she discovered the Puente Project, which works with disadvantaged students at Sacramento City College. The program, however, can serve only 30 students each year because of limited resources, she said.
The Chicano studies major said she believes the planned HSI program at Sacramento City College would have put her on the right path sooner.
“I look at what it offers and look at the peer mentors and counseling, and I feel that if I would have been in the HSI I wouldn’t have been here that long, possibly would have a better GPA and would have transferred a lot faster,” she said.
Denise Fernandez, a Sacramento State student and member of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan, or MEChA, a student cultural group, isn’t satisfied with the plan for her school. She said some of the money should have been designated for a Latino center and to improve the campus climate.
“There is a hostile environment on campus and many students feel marginalized when they speak on campus,” she said.
Officials at both schools said they intend to continue the efforts that prove successful at their schools even if they are not awarded another grant in five years. Sacramento City College plans to place a percentage of HSI money in an endowment fund for future years. The amount in the fund will be matched by the Sacramento City College Foundation.
“The ultimate goal is to replicate the successful aspects of these programs,” Hernandez said.