March 30, 2004
|Contact: (202) 401-1576|
Thank you for that kind introduction. It is a great honor to be here with you as we work together to expand educational opportunities for Hispanic Americans.
The great novelist Carlos Fuentes wrote, "When we exclude, we betray ourselves. When we include, we find ourselves." This is especially true in education. Your institutions are making higher education inclusive for young Hispanic students today. You are strengthening the American fabric through your outstanding work and through the educational opportunities you provide. And you are helping our nation find its future strength.
We must work together to open the door to post secondary education for more Hispanic students. Too few of our academically eligible Hispanic students are enrolling in college. And, of those who do, too many are dropping out short of completing their degree. As a result, only one in 10 Hispanic Americans graduate from four-year colleges and universities. Giving more students the opportunity to pursue higher educations is one of the most important goals of President Bush and his administration.
Our strategy to strengthen higher education begins by preparing students to enter and complete post-secondary education. Put simply, improving K-12 education is the single most important step we can take to give our young learners the skills they will need for further education and for success in our ever-changing workforce.
President Bush understands the importance of quality education. He has made education a priority, starting from his first day in office. Now, under the bold reforms of the No Child Left Behind Act, we are strengthening education for all of our students, especially those from low income and minority backgrounds, and those who are new to our nation. Under President Bush, funding for English language learners has doubled to help all students achieve academic success.
We recognize the need to strengthen high school education. That's why the President's Jobs for the 21st Century initiative provides new resources to improve high school education for all of our students. It makes a significant investment in high school reading and math, particularly to intervene among those students most likely to fall behind.
Since we know that the rigor of a student's high school curriculum is the best predictor of success in college, the President's Jobs for the 21st Century initiative includes Enhanced Pell Grants to reward students who take challenging high school coursework. And, his initiative includes new funding to make Advanced Placement classes more accessible to low-income students.
The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanic Americans continues to advocate on behalf of Hispanic students and has worked closely with your members to strengthen education.
President Bush and his administration recognize that many qualified young men and women who want to go to college are deterred by the cost. President Bush has made it a priority to put the cost of higher education within reach.
For the Pell Grant program, the president's latest budget includes an increase of $856 million, for a total of nearly $13 billion. Under his leadership, an additional one million students are now receiving Pell Grants than received them before he took office.
Additionally, the President's budget calls for an increase in loan limits for first-year students to more accurately reflect the present cost of higher education.
Recently, the Department of Education created a media outreach program to raise awareness among college-age students about financial aid opportunities. I'm pleased to report that the effort hit the bull's eye, reaching more than six million people.
The bottom line is, we don't want any child to be deterred from pursuing higher education because of cost. Throughout the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, we will work with Congress to support measures that put college within reach of all students.
At the same time we are preparing more students for higher education, we must work together to ensure that our colleges and universities can meet the growing demands for their services.
The President's Jobs for the 21st Century initiative also helps in this regard, by increasing support for our nation's tremendous community colleges. They are doing great work preparing both young and old for the opportunities and changing nature of our economy.
The President's latest budget once again demonstrates his commitment to Hispanic Serving Institutions. Under his proposal, funding for your schools would increase by 40 percent since he took office.
One of our highest priorities in the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act will be expanding distance learning opportunities by making it easier for your schools to use federal funds in support of this goal.
We also recognize the need to ease the administrative burdens on institutions of higher learning so that they can spend more time and resources on educating their students.
We want to simplify application processes and definitions so that institutions applying for funds under Title III and Title V of the Higher Education Act all provide the same basic information and meet the same general definitions. This will ease the application process and allow more institutions to participate with greater ease in essential programs targeted to meet the unique needs of Hispanic students.
In addition, we support your view that Hispanic Serving Institutions should be allowed to reapply for grants with no wait-out period and continue without interruption to develop their institutions and serve students with these essential federal funds.
Recently, we were reminded of the urgency of our task. Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan spoke powerfully on the need to upgrade all aspects of our education system. Testifying before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, he noted: "Technological advance is continually altering the shape, nature, and complexity of our economic processes. To effectively manage this ever-increasing complexity, our labor force has had to become more and more technically oriented."
Your schools and institutions are playing a tremendous role in preparing Hispanic students to fully participate in our economy and our civic life. We must continue to work together to ensure that every child that wants to pursue a higher education has the opportunity to do so. We want every child in America, regardless of race, family income, or language spoken at home, to have the same great opportunity to succeed. With your continued dedication and service, I am confident we will achieve this goal.
I am pleased today to sign a new Memorandum of Understanding with HACU, reaffirming our desire to work together to expand educational opportunities for Hispanic Americans. This partnership will help us fulfill our shared goal of increasing Hispanic educational attainment and preparing Hispanic youngsters for the demands of the future labor market.
This Memorandum of Understanding will help us work together to create employment and educational opportunities within the Department of Education for your students and scholars. It will also allow us to better focus resources to improve HACU members' educational and research capabilities.
This is an important agreement, and I am proud to enter into it here with you today.