The W.K. Kellogg Foundation has announced it will spend $28.7 million over six years in an effort to boost the number of Hispanic students who obtain college degrees. Experts say that is the first major grant from a private philanthropy ever given to the cause.
The funding will be directed to Hispanic-serving colleges and universities and existing partnerships between higher education institutions, K-12 schools, businesses, and community organizations, said Betty Overton-Adkins, the director of higher education programs at the Battle Creek, Mich., foundation.
Grantmakers hope that the program unveiled last month, called Engaging Latino Communities for Education, or ENLACE, will indirectly aid more than 500,000 students.
“We looked at the growing population of Latinos in this country, and we realized that ... Hispanics have the highest [high school] dropout rates of any minority in the nation,” Ms. Overton-Adkins said. “We weren’t going to be able to increase the college [enrollment] rate unless we also worked at the precollegiate level.”
The grant is desperately needed, said Antonio R. Flores, the president of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, based in San Antonio. Though 15 percent of Americans classify themselves as Hispanic, only 7 percent of Hispanic students who graduate from high school attend college, he said. Of those who do enroll, between 30 percent and 40 percent don’t finish their first year.
“Most young Latinos attend inner-city, urban schools that are less equipped to prepare them well for a college education,” Mr. Flores said. “They come from families that don’t have the benefit of having gone to college. In many instances, they haven’t finished high school.”
Institutions where Hispanic students constitute at least 25 percent of the total student population will be eligible to receive grants, Ms. Overton-Adkins said. Given those demographics, the schools will likely be located in the South, Southwest, and West, she said.
The money is intended to help the grant recipients expand or improve promising programs.
Currently, “the infrastructure and ability to apply outreach and support for disadvantaged communities is just not there,” Mr. Flores said.
Many donors overlook Hispanic-serving institutions, also known as HSIs, because they fail to note the large number of Hispanic students who attend them, said Judy Jones, the interim vice president for advancement at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, where 25 percent of the 20,000 students are Hispanic.
Unlike historically black colleges and universities, where African-Americans make up the majority of students, HSIs are not predominantly Hispanic; thus, the ethnic group is less visible, Ms. Jones said.
ENLACE is one of three large grants that Kellogg has awarded to help minority students attend and graduate from college, Ms. Overton-Adkins said. In 1996, the foundation gave one $30 million grant to tribal colleges and another to historically black colleges.
The foundation is now in the process of crafting a program that will bring together Hispanic, American Indian, and black leaders to increase the lobbying power of all minorities on higher education issues, Ms. Overton-Adkins said.
“We want to bring them together so that they can learn how to collaborate rather than compete,” she said.
A version of this article appeared in the May 12, 1999 edition of Education Week as Kellogg Seeks To Help Hispanics Earn College Degrees