Voices and Viewpoints

House Passes Five Bills Supporting Minority-Serving Institutions

by Randi Congleton / Jul 27, 2016

Recently, the House of Representatives passed a series of five higher education bills that support the work of minority-serving institutions. These bills are “focused on improving the financial aid process, enhancing consumer information and strengthening federal programs that support the work of minority-serving institutions such as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Hispanic-Serving Institutions” (American Council on Education, June 23, 2016). These five bills are:

All of these bills were received and read twice at the Senate on July 12, 2016. The bills have been assigned to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs) are 2- and 4-year colleges and universities that serve U.S ethnic groups who are underrepresented in higher education. Support of MSIs, especially support that improves college affordability, is critical to promoting access to a high-quality education for populations of students who are both underrepresented in and underserved by the educational system. The MSI designation reflects either the founding mission of the institution or the student population demographics. MSIs include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges, and Asian American-, Native American-, and Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs).

The passing in the House of Representatives of five bills designed to financially support the work of MSIs across the country affirms and reaffirms the necessity of these institutions and the timeliness of our work here in Illinois. In Illinois, passage of these bills has the potential to open educational opportunities to underserved students served by the 14 Minority-Serving Community Colleges (MSCCs) in the state. Of these institutions, nine are HSIs where least 25% of the college student population is Latin@, five are PBIs, and three are AANAPISIs. It is important to note that four of these institutions hold more than one of these designations. Research tells us that four-year MSIs provide high-quality educational experiences while being responsive to the needs of students from diverse economic and cultural communities (Conrad & Gasman, 2015). However, little is known about the success and practices of MSCCs specifically, and the Office of Community Research and Leadership (OCCRL) seeks to fill this gap.

As educational equity and outcomes are central to the research conducted by OCCRL, studying MSCCs provides us an important opportunity to learn from these institutions’ successes. Specifically, OCCRL has begun examining the ways MSCCs in Illinois assist students to and through educational pathways in STEM. We are very interested in students’ experiences, both curricular and co-curricular, that enhance learning and foster success for transfer pathways. The goal of this project is to bridge research and practice to strengthen student outcomes in STEM programs of study at MSCCs.

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