By Casey Peacock: PNT Staff Writer
The U.S. Senate passed a bill Saturday including a provision that will make it easier for Eastern New Mexico University and other New Mexico schools with high percentages of Hispanic students to receive and keep federal aid, according to a press release from Sen. Pete Domenici’s office.
The bill continues authorization for federal student aid programs through June 2007— giving Congress another eight months to pass a formal reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.
The current Higher Education Act authorization expired Saturday.
The Domenici-sponsored provisions in the bill eliminated the need for institutions to show that that at least 50 percent of their Hispanic enrollment is low-income in order to qualify for a five-year Hispanic Serving Institute (HSI) grant. The bill also eliminates a two-year waiting period between HSI Title V grant awards. Current law stipulates that schools must wait for at least two-years to reapply for new funding after a five-year grant is exhausted.
“The current two-year wait period hinders efforts to implement continuing programs with long-range solutions to Hispanic higher education challenges,” Domenici said.
There are approximately 1,100 Hispanic students currently attending ENMU, according to school officials. Each year, ENMU continues to have a higher number of Hispanics who enroll. The numbers have been going higher each year and breaking the previous year’s record, ENMU President Steven Gamble said.
“We are grateful to the congressional delegate for the passage of this act,” Gamble said. “ENMU has been very aggressive in obtaining funds as a federally designated Hispanic serving institution.”
Some of the services that ENMU could provide with increased funding would be technical support and possibly scholarships, Gamble said.
“It will enable us to strengthen our support programs for our Hispanic students,” said Gamble. “It will provide a variety of possibilities.”
Clovis Community College is also an Hispanic Serving Institution.