Invest in Minority-Serving Institutions

For decades, MSIs have created educational opportunities for hundreds of thousands of minority, low-income, and first-generation college students due to their accessibility, affordability, and close proximity to the communities they service. Despite their sometimes-limited resources and capacity, MSIs have produced exceptional scientists, doctors, lawyers, educators, entrepreneurs, and public servants. Some of their most distinguished graduates include members of Congress.

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Many of our nation’s MSIs offer educational opportunities for students seeking associates degrees, certificates, specialized training and re-training, and for others, basic literacy skills. MSIs serve young people who may have to work one or two jobs to pay tuition and need flexible work schedules to earn their degrees. MSIs serve adult learners and older students, such as working moms, who are attending their local community college for the first time.

They serve young people who are returning to school to pursue postsecondary education after having served in the military. They serve workers who need to upgrade their skills to pursue a new career. Most recently, MSIs that provide associates degrees have experienced increased demands to offer education and training for workers who have been displaced from their jobs and need to acquire the requisite skills to enter new and high-growth sectors of our economy, such as healthcare, green jobs, and technology.

As the cost of higher education continues to rise and state legislative budgets on higher education reflect deep cuts, MSIs are becoming even more important in ensuring accessibility and affordability in higher education.

As chairman of the Subcommittee of Higher Education, Lifelong Learning, and Competitiveness, I believe The Student Aid and Fiscal Responsibility Act, H.R. 3221, is critical to the future of these institutions. In addition to making landmark investments in early education, Pell Grants, community colleges, and other federal financial aid programs, the legislation provides much-needed resources to MSIs to provide students with the support they need to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), stay in school, and graduate.

If our nation hopes to reach President Obama’s goal of leading the world in the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020, we must invest in MSIs and provide them with the resources to build their capacity and achieve the president’s goals.

Our nation’s competitiveness and innovation depends on our ability to invest in human capital and train a workforce with 21st century skills. We must invest in all students, but particularly in minority, low-income, and first-generation college students, so that they too can thrive in a knowledge-based global economy, earn family-sustaining wages and become the scientists, mathematicians, innovators, and high-skilled workers that our country desperately needs.

Hinojosa is a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, and chairman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education, Lifelong Learning and Competitiveness.