HSI Grant Creates Path to Greater Equity for Latinx Students

San José City College supports Latinx education. Here, a METAS student poses at the Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.
METAS student at Google Headquarters in Mountain View, California.

“San José, California in Silicon Valley is one of the richest, most technologically forward cities on planet Earth. The industries and employers here think, work and earn globally. But for Latinx, the Silicon Valley experience is markedly less glowing,” said Dr. Elizabeth Gonzalez, SJCC’s Grant Manager of HSI Initiatives. 

Gonzalez’s statement speaks to one of the greatest inequities we see in Silicon Valley. But an initiative here at San José City College — the Ganas Project — aims to narrow this gap. The project has been awarded a five-year $2.9 million HSI grant from the U.S. Department of Education. It will focus particularly on student pathways for STEM, public health, and teaching careers.

It’s one of our most comprehensive initiatives yet. And we’re thrilled for what it means for the future of our community. Here’s how the Ganas Project will help SJCC better serve Hispanic students now, and for years to come. 

San José City College is a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI)

Before we get into the Ganas Project, let’s talk about SJCC and it’s connection to the Hispanic (Latinx) community.

What is an HSI?

The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) formed in 1986, and it wasn’t long before they began to acknowledge HSIs. Then, HACU pioneered efforts to get HSIs recognized by federal law — and they succeeded in 1995.

An HSI’s most notable requirement is to be an accredited degree granting institution with 25% or more Hispanic full-time or (full-time equivalent) students. You can check out all the requisites here.

For years, San José City College has been a proud Hispanic-Serving Institution.

Cultivamos Excelencia students and staff at UC Santa Cruz.
Cultivamos Excelencia students and staff at UC Santa Cruz.

Latinx Students Face Systemic and Institutional Challenges

“San José, California in Silicon Valley is one of the richest, most technologically forward cities on planet Earth. […] But for Latinx, the Silicon Valley experience is markedly less glowing.”

Elizabeth Gonzalez, Grant Manager of HSI Initiatives at SJCC

If you’re a Bay Area Latinx, you probably already know that inequality in Silicon Valley is rampant. But if you didn’t, here’s the data. 

According to the American Community Survey, 2019 (U.S. Census Bureau) — the average annual earnings for Latinx adults over the age of 25 is less than half that of White and Asian residents ($24,238 compared to $59,011 for Whites and $52,649 for Asians). And only 16% of Latinx residents have a bachelor’s degree compared to 64% for Asians and 58% for Whites.

These stark numbers don’t lie. In the same year, the U.S. Census Bureau also reported that 32% of San José City’s population was “Hispanic or Latino.” So this disparity hits very close to home.

What Creates an Education and Wage Gap for Latinx?

The reasons for these inequities are numerous, complex, and long-standing.

But the bottom line is that Latinx students face academic discrimination and systemic obstacles from an early age. They tend to be placed in underserved schools where there’s a lack of Latinx representation in teachers, some get little to no support as bilingual households, and many come from hardworking families who can’t give them the academic support they need. 

These are just a few of the many reasons, which carry on into their higher-education journey — turning the education gap into a wage gap. Latinx students need reparative pathways to academic achievement. 

It’s critical for the students, but also because Latinx success impacts the health of the entire community. And it’s important to note that supportive pathways don’t mean covert segregation, and all students benefit from diversity

SJCC student, Matthew Zarate participates in Peer Led Tutoring at the METAS Center on campus.
SJCC student, Matthew Zarate participates in Peer Led Tutoring at the METAS Center on campus.

What Will the Ganas Project Do?

Dr.Gonzalez outlined the objectives of the program here. “The Ganas Project will:

  • Create clear academic and career pathways in Engineering, Teacher Preparation and Public Health.
  • Use an Integrated Academic Support System that provides intensive academic and non-cognitive (e.g. study skills, motivation, sense of belonging) support to ensure student success.
  • Implement an equity-centered Faculty Professional Learning Program.
  • Create a faculty user-friendly Data Dashboard to monitor academic progress by equity parameters (i.e., ethnicity and income status) in near-real time.”

“In designing the Ganas Project, SJCC also examined its track record of previous Title V funding which have shown to disrupt institutional barriers and result in increased retention, persistence, and transfer among Latinx and low-income students.”

Each of these goals are informed by and build off the past successes of Title V funding at San José City College — here’s how.

Create Clear Academic and Career Pathways for Students

Latinx students are more likely to lose their way on the path to higher education, which is why past initiatives at SJCC have been specifically designed to prevent early departures. 

The 2019 METAS Summer Bridge Program and the Guided Pathways Framework — both demonstrated that clear academic pathways are critical. The Ganas Project will use both of these models and work with the METAS Center to change systems and reduce obstacles for students at SJCC. 

The project tackles real issues like pass rates for transfer level classes in English and Math. But also has lofty long-term goals for change. “The legacy of these five-year grants is rooted in the original intent of the Title V grant: to change systems, processes, and the culture of institutions to serve Latinx and low-income students in equitable ways that maximize their success,” Gonzalez said.

Focus on STEM, Public Health and Teacher Preparation

Research shows that these three categories are critically lacking in Latinx representation. And that a scarcity of Latinx in these fields is endangering the future of California.

A shortage of spanish-speaking doctors amidst the COVID health crisis is perhaps the most timely example of this. While securing futures for Latinx in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) — is uniquely essential to the economy of Silicon Valley. 

And of course, Latinx teachers are essential to ensure the academic success of Hispanic students in early education. Prioritizing the support of aspiring Latinx teachers will change a discriminatory system at its root, and provide students with empathetic role models.

METAS and SparkPoint students pose for a photo after Financial Peer Coaching Training.
METAS and SparkPoint students pose for a photo after Financial Peer Coaching Training.

Designed to Support Latinx Excellence

The name alone — “Ganas” showcases that this initiative was made with Latinx students’ need at the center. Ganas in spanish — translates as grit, desire, or eagerness for something.

It speaks to the strength of the students, but also of SJCC’s desire to uplift future generations of Latinx. In EIN Presswire — SJCC President, Dr. Rowena M. Tomaneng said, “The HSI award underscores that college leadership fully supports Latinx student success and will allow us to deepen our equity-minded programs and services further.”

The Ganas Project will also integrate key aspects of the University of California, Santa Cruz HSI Initiative, Cultivamos Excelencia. It will use a culturally responsive approach, always taking the unique challenges of Latinx students into account. 

Dr. Elizabeth Gonzalez, who also worked on Cultivamos Excelencia — provided valuable knowledge and insight. “Unclear academic pathways, lack of financial literacy education, and the need for culturally responsive services including the engagement of bilingual families were identified through equity analyses of institutional data, numerous discussions and listening sessions with students, K-12 partners, employers, 4-year college and university partners, staff, faculty, and administrators.” 

Gonzalez hopes to further study, and address all of these findings over the course of the five-year HSI grant.

The Ganas Project Will Help Latinx Students at SJCC Today

Community and leadership have always been behind Latinx at San José City College. But now more than ever, we have the tools to make meaningful, sustainable change — and help Latinx thrive at SJCC. 

It’s an exciting time for current and prospective students. Because the Ganas Project will narrow the education and wage gaps — so that historically underrepresented students are more likely to earn college degrees in high-demand and high-earning fields.

If you’re interested in learning more about the Ganas Project — check out the METAS Center for more information about HSI Initiatives at SJCC.

SJCC 2017 Family Day at UC Santa Cruz — part of the Cultivamos Excelencia HSI Initiative.