Cruz: Community college initiative is not the way to improve education for Latinos
The National Hispanic University in East San Jose is pictured in this file photo. Photo courtesy of The National Hispanic University.

    In response to the opinion piece New initiative promises improved educational outcomes for East San Jose residents, there were ambiguous statements made about the National Hispanic University (now the Foundation for Hispanic Education), an institution that was founded by my late father, Dr. B. Roberto Cruz.

    The San Jose/Evergreen Community College District (SJECCD) initiative should not be pursued because it is not consistent with NHU/TFHE’s 39-year-old educational philosophy.

    The op-ed states: “Despite the progress and successes, NHU continued having regulatory and financial challenges. In 2013, The U.S. Department of Education’s determination that NHU’s Liberal Studies program students were not eligible for Title IV federal funding (student financial aid) proved to be the tipping point for a small private tuition-driven university.”

    For the record, NHU had no regulatory challenges with the U.S. Department of Education Title IV program prior to January 2008. Dr. Cruz was the visionary, founding president of NHU for 22 years and passed away on Sept. 4, 2002. When I left my position as NHU’s director of university advancement in January 2008, there were no regulatory challenges and it was a private, nonprofit, 4-year university. These regulatory challenges that proved to be the “tipping point” began subsequent to January 2008.

    In 2007, the U.S. Department of Education honored my father, posthumously, by including his name and image on the Wall of Honor at their headquarters in Washington, D.C.

    Another statement from the op-ed that must be clarified: As Cesar Chavez stated in NHU’s first commencement in 1985: ‘I wish NHU were around for me. I would have come to NHU’.

    Chavez was not at the first commencement of NHU in 1985. I know because I was there. While Chavez was a supporter of NHU, he never attended a commencement ceremony.

    NHU/the Foundation for Hispanic Education is still on its 10.5-acre Story Road campus and continues to impact east San Jose Latino families through its three charter high schools. TFHE serves 1,000 east side families and its graduates attend Cal, UCLA, Brown, UPenn, Duke, San Jose State, as well as other UCs, CSUs, and private universities.

    Those who do not qualify or are not able to afford a 4-year university enroll at Evergreen Valley College and San Jose City College. Since it arrived on the east side in 1994, NHU/TFHE has promoted a college-going culture.

    Dr. Cruz always saw the potential in people and encouraged them to reach for it through a 4-year degree. As an advocate for improving educational outcomes for Latinos, my father did not allow the low expectations of others to restrict what students could accomplish.

    After reading the announcement of the SJECCD initiative in the op-ed, I contacted the Foundation for Hispanic Education’s CEO and board chair. I wanted to know why a person, who is no longer affiliated with the institution, used a distorted version of NHU history as an opening act for the announcement of an initiative that will diminish the 4-year university prospects of so many TFHE students?

    After my calls, it was clear no one at the foundation had any idea this initiative was being announced in the op-ed. No one from TFHE was a part of the announcement. This can be verified by TFHE.

    Community colleges are an essential piece of the educational system and SJECCD always has been a good partner to NHU/TFHE.  I hope that never changes. However, the aim of the SJECCD’s initiative runs contrary to what TFHE schools are striving for.

    If the initiative is an investment to increase UC/CSU eligibility, AP offerings, math and literacy performance and academic support services, I am in favor. These are the key components for sending students to 4-year universities.

    Yet, I did not read how the SJECCD Initiative is going to make them more robust. Currently, TFHE students can choose to add dual college courses to their schedule through SJECCD. Why is there a need for an “SJECCD campus” if students can already complete college credits if they choose?

    The SJECCD campus would be an unnecessary, taxpayer funded, pipeline to a community college with an unknown price tag. Why pay millions to create a pipeline that already exists and that limits Latino students’ choices? I submit that public school districts in east San Jose would be better partners for this initiative as they serve a larger population and already have pre-k to 12th-grade students.

    There are many reasons why I do not support the SJECCD Initiative but there is one that is at the top of the list. The TFHE educational philosophy is to expect the most of our Latino youth and not restrict what they can achieve.

    Additionally, I do not like the timing of this announcement. It happened in the middle of July while TFHE families were away and in the middle of a pandemic. Prior to the announcement, no public meetings with parents were held. Why would you not provide parents and students with an opportunity to understand and ask questions about an SJECCD campus? If TFHE is not driving this effort, who is and why? Where is the transparency?

    In closing, I would like to express my gratitude to everyone who has supported my father’s vision, NHU/the Foundation for Hispanic Education and the thousands of students who have benefitted over the past 39 years. TFHE continues to deliver on its promise to east San Jose residents and we welcome everyone to learn about us and how you can support our mission. Si se puede.

    Roberto Cruz II is the former Director of University Advancement at The National Hispanic University and a cofounder of the Latino College Preparatory Academy.     




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