YAKIMA, Wash. — The Washington Legislature needs to be more aware of the changing and increasing minority population among college-ready students, local higher education officials told a House committee on Friday.
The House Higher Education Committee met at Yakima Valley Community College and heard from the local colleges and universities on the subject of under-represented minorities in higher education.
Leaders from YVCC, Heritage University and Central Washington University detailed some of the programs their schools have initiated to help bridge the gap in achievement between white and minority students.
CWU, for example, noted its federal funding for the College Assistance Migrant Program, or CAMP, which helps migrant students or children of migrant parents attending the Ellensburg university. Currently, CAMP funds 62 students.
The Washington Student Achievement Council, a post-secondary state education agency, presented a report on diversity and equity in higher education. The report, presented by officials from the University of Washington and Washington State University, acknowledged what many already know: Washington is becoming more racially diverse, especially within the younger demographics. According to projected population changes for 2005 through 2025, the Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander populations among 18- to 24-year-olds are expected to increase by 61 percent and 53 percent, respectively. The white population among college-age individuals, though, is projected to decrease by 3 percent.
The council also unveiled results of a survey sent to 2-year and 4-year colleges and universities this spring. The survey asked the institutions to describe the funding, capacity and challenges for their diversity programs. According to the survey, the primary challenge to getting minority groups over barriers to success is scarce financial resources, followed by insufficient staff to help students.
“Our families in our community — our Latino families, families of color — most definitely want to succeed,” said Olivia Gutierrez, director of admissions at Heritage University. “We want our children to go to college, there’s no doubt about that. It’s the accessibility, the affordability — we need financial literacy in our communities.”
They recommended that lawmakers keep up with changing demographics and try to limit tuition and fees. Maintaining Web-based college access tools would also help alleviate some of the hurdles that block minority students from attending a postsecondary institution.
“Some of the things we do know (are) that, in terms of preparation, the potential is there” among underrepresented students, said Enrique Morales, senior associate vice president with the University of Washington’s minority affairs department.