WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) introduced a bipartisan bill to give colleges and universities with a high enrollment of Hispanic students access to a grant program that encourages students to engage in historical and cultural projects. The Preservation Research at Institutions Serving Minorities (PRISM) Act would amend the National Historic Preservation Act by expanding eligibility to include Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) for a grant to establish preservation training and degree programs.
The grant program is similar to a program already available to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and non-tribal colleges with a high enrollment of Native Americans or Native Hawaiians. The bill does not require any new spending, but would ensure that Hispanic-Serving Institutions be considered for the same program that is currently open to other Minority-Serving Institutions.
New Mexico is home to 18 Hispanic-Serving Institutions, including Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute; Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque; Clovis Community College; Eastern New Mexico University in Portales and Roswell; Mesalands Community College in Tucumcari; New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas; New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro; New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs; New Mexico State University in Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Carlsbad and Grants; Northern New Mexico College in Española; The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque and Los Lunas; University of the Southwest in Hobbs; and Western New Mexico University in Silver City.
"New Mexico's cultural history is deeply rooted in our Hispanic heritage, dating back over centuries, and this program will open up a new opportunity for all students to deepen their understanding of Hispanic history and culture," Udall said. "Hispanic-Serving Institutions play an essential role in American higher education, and my bill will help ensure that students in New Mexico and throughout the country have the same chance to delve into education and training programs to help preserve their heritage as students at other Minority-Serving Institutions."
“The PRISM Act would ensure that our country’s Hispanic-Serving Institutions have the same access to preservation and cultural education programs as other minority-serving colleges and universities," Rubio said. "Florida institutions continue to be leaders in serving our country’s minority students, and this bill is aimed at continuing strong programs that reinforce education surrounding national heritage and culture.”
“Hispanic-serving institutions across New Mexico serve a tremendous role in our communities. They help prepare students for the future and give them to tools they need to tackle the challenges of today’s global economy.” Heinrich said. “This bill will ensure our Hispanic-serving institutions have the resources to educate our students, train our workforce, and develop the next generation of Hispanic leaders with an emphasis on cultural understanding and preservation."
“As Chair of the Senate Democratic Hispanic Task Force and a graduate of a Hispanic-Serving Institution myself, I am proud to join my colleagues in introducing the PRISM Act to further support and recognize the integral role HSIs play in the education of our future leaders,” said Menendez. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure thousands of students at these colleges and universities – including 9 in New Jersey – can engage in historical and cultural projects to preserve their cultural and national heritage.”
“There are more than 400 Hispanic-Serving Institutions in this country who deserve equal access to funding already available to other Minority Serving Institutions,” Grijalva said. “The Hispanic population in this country is growing, and more than half of our country’s young Hispanic students attend Hispanic-Serving Institutions. It is crucial that we assure all students have the opportunity to participate in projects to preserve their cultural and national heritage. I urge my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to join me in in this effort to assure all students have access to these types of programs.”
HSIs are defined as not-for-profit institutions of higher learning where total Hispanic full-time undergraduate enrollment constitutes a minimum of 25 percent of total full-time undergraduate enrollment. More than 400 HSIs throughout the country could benefit from expanded eligibility for the preservation research grant program. HSIs make up about 12 percent of all higher education institutions in the U.S., though they educate more than half of all Hispanic students. The PRISM Act provides HSIs with comparable access to technical or financial assistance to implement preservation training and degree programs as institutions with high enrollments of other minority populations.