National Hispanic University Announces It's Closing in 2015
America's first full-term, accredited university focused specifically on Latinos will close its doors at the end of the academic calendar next year. The National Hispanic University in San Jose, Calif. announced on Thursday that its run is over, after recent online initiatives failed to improve its finances.
The board of directors for the National Hispanic University (NHU) posted a notice on the university's website announcing the grim news:
"Over the past few months, The National Hispanic University (NHU) Board of Directors and administration have sought and gained insight from our students, community leaders, and others as we looked at ways our institution can move forward. After a deliberative review process, the Board has determined that because the university continues to face significant ongoing regulatory and financial challenges, the institution cannot operate as it has in the past. The NHU Board of Directors met on March 19, 2014, and has announced a range of actions designed to ensure that the university's vision endures and that its students successfully complete their studies."
The actions the board intends to take include continuing NHU's teacher training program with "another local university" after NHU's accreditation expires, as well as putting in transfer agreements for students who are still in the middle of their education. The NHU campus will still be owned by the NHU Foundation, which will lease its real estate to a new K-12 education program and a teacher academy supporting local educators.
The National Hispanic University was founded in Oakland, Ca. in 1981 as a two-classroom college, by Stanford education professor B. Roberto Cruz, who wanted to boost the number of Latinos in California enrolled in full-term universities. NHU was modeled after historically black colleges, like Spelman College, but for Latinos. When it gained accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges in 2002, it was the first and only Latino four-year college to do so.
But trouble lay ahead for NHU. The university was acquired four years ago by Laureate Education, Inc., a for-profit college management company, after reductions in government financial aid for liberal arts students forced the NHU to stop enrolling new students several years ago.
Laureate hoped to turn around NHU's problems by boosting student enrollment in internet based classes, but that effort was ultimately not successful enough. "We made critical and important efforts to expand and make 'national' in National Hispanic University real," said Jonathan Kaplan, Chairman of the NHU board of directors and Laureate Education, Inc., official to the San Jose Mercury News. Laureate had invested "tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure, faculty and student support," according to Kaplan.
The company had planned to add 8,000 students through online programs and begin degree programs in Mexican-American studies and Spanish, but "That goal was never met," said NHU President Gladys Ato to Mercury News earlier this year, "We were very, very far from reaching it."
One of the reasons for the failure of that initiative, according to Ato, is that "Online education doesn't work for Latinos. It doesn't work for them because they haven't been prepared with the computer skills that are required." While, in general, Latinos in the U.S. are "ahead of the digital curve" and very tech-savvy, segments of the Latino population -- especially the Latinos NHU was trying to serve -- are still on the other side of the digital divide.
NHU will continue to offer classes at its campus until its remaining students either graduate or transfer to other colleges by the end of the academic year in 2015, which is when the first four-year accredited Latino college will cease to exist.