First Latino-Focused Four-Year University Set to Close

By Julissa Catalan


The National Hispanic University in San Jose, Calif., announced that it is closing at the end of its spring semester in 2015.

“After a deliberative review process, the board has determined that because the university continues to face significant ongoing regulatory and financial challenges, the institution cannot operate as it has in the past,” the university’s board of directors said in a statement.

Dismayed by the lack of Latino enrollment in California universities, Stanford professor B. Roberto Cruz founded the institution in 1981. Originally based out of Oakland, the college began with just two classrooms, eventually gaining accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) in 2002. NHU is the first and only Latino school to acquire this status.

Cruz died of cancer three months after NHU became an accredited university.

“His dedication to providing a high level of educational opportunities for all, especially ethnic minorities and disadvantaged students, is evident in the legacy he has left behind,” California Assemblyman Manny Diaz said in a statement at the time of Cruz’s death.

Cruz modeled his academy after Black institutions like Spelman College and Howard University, whose many graduates have gone on to become renowned in their own right.

NHU progressed to a larger facility in San Jose in 1994 as enrollment continued to grow. However, in 2010, the university was sold for an undisclosed amount to Laureate Educationa for-profit college chain that runs 75 traditional and online collegesbecause it had difficulty raising funds.

Last spring, liberal-arts majors were hit with a big setbackthe U.S. Department of Education felt that the program did not offer enough benefits to eventually produce employment and therefore withdrew its financial aid from students enrolled in that course track. About one-quarter of NHU’s students had to either transfer or switch majors as a result.

“We made critical and important efforts to expand and make the ‘national’ in National Hispanic University real,” Jonathan Kaplan, chairman of the NHU board and a top executive at Laureate, told the San Jose Mercury News. He went on to say that Laureate had invested “tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure, faculty and student support.”

“The reality is we’re in a very difficult financial situation,” added NHU President Gladys Ato.

David Lopez, Chancellor at NHU, disclosed future plans after the university’s closing.

The NHU Foundation, an independent organization established after Laureate bought the main building, is in talks to convert that building into a K12 charter school.

There is also hope for a training academy for college graduates to obtain teaching credentials. This, however, would likely require a partnership with another university once NHU’s accreditation runs out.

Lopez would also like to establish a research center, the Institute for Hispanic Education Advancement, where teaching methods could be studied in terms of what works best for Latino students, and then be advocated.

“I’m looking forward to the future,” Lopez said, “to the evolution of Hispanic education and opportunities for our community.”

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