Dreams of a Latino University fizzle with NHU closing

After more than three decades of serving students in East San Jose, Calif., the National Hispanic University has announced plans to close in 2015.“There were…

National Hispanic University in California will be closing its doors in 2015 after three decades of serving Latino students. (Courtesy: NHU)

After more than three decades of serving students in East San Jose, Calif., the National Hispanic University has announced plans to close in 2015.

“There were a number of hurdles faced over a number of years,” NHU President and Provost Gladys Ato told Voxxi. “NHU  has had a long standing history of having financial struggles.”

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Those issues came to a head four years ago when Laureate International Universities acquired NHU, investing millions into the school and creating online course offerings. Despite the investment, there were other obstacles looming.

“At that time, we then faced additional challenges, regulatory in nature that prevented us from offering new programs and prevented us from being able to offer any online offerings or open any new sites for a two-year period,” Ato said.

“More recently, Pell Grants did take away our eligibility to offer awards to students. So a lot of the challenges did continue to make it very difficult for us to find a way to ensure long-term viability.”

Struggling on different fronts, the decision was made to close the three-story school located in a Latino neighborhood. The institution was the vision of the late Roberto Cruz, who is viewed as a pioneer in bilingual education. He sought to help the Hispanic community, which was plagued with students dropping out of high school, let alone receiving a college education.

“Dr. Cruz founded NHU with a belief in ensuring that there was access to higher education for Latinos and others underrepresented,” Ato said. “He worked to really develop a university model similar to the historically Black colleges and universities.

“He was very intentional in picking East San Jose because it’s a predominantly Latino community. He wanted there to be a university within the neighborhood of the people to be seen as the pillar of hope. So over the years they have really maintained a strong presence in East San Jose, and this campus itself opens itself up to the community to host community events during the year.”

As far as the future of the school’s current students, Ato said in an effort to preserve Dr. Cruz’s legacy of educating the future educator, the NHU Foundation is partnering with Santa Clara University offering the teacher credential programs at the existing campus. 

Day of the Dead painting at National Hispanic University.

National Hispanic University celebrates the uniqueness of its students, such as in this “Dia de los Muertos” celebration in 2013. (NSU/Facebook)

Regarding the remaining students in different undergraduate and graduate programs, Ato said NHU is helping them either graduate by the end of August 2015 or transfer by establishing formal transfer agreements with other institutions in the area.

If there’s an irony to the closing of the National Hispanic University, it has to be the fact that Hispanics are currently attending college at a record pace. When asked if it was a possibility that as Hispanic college enrollment increased it diminished NHU’s niche, Ato said. “It’s hard to answer that question. What is true is there are a lot of choices for students nowadays and that students are not as limited in terms of potential college options they can go to.”

Invariably, the legacy of NHU will come from its graduates who were positively impacted by the school’s presence. Ato said Dr. Cruz’s impact is felt today in the message that Latinos have just as much right to go to college as everyone else.

She added, “I think that more Latinos going to college really does serve as witness to the fact that positive progress was made.”

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