Alliance for Equity in Higher Ed Appeals to President for Job Creation Centered Around Minority Serving Institutions

In a letter to President Obama, the American Indian Higher Education Coalition (AIHEC), Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) and National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) working collaboratively as  The Alliance for Equity in Higher Education (The Alliance), urged President Obama to include a central role for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Predominantly Black Institutions, Hispanic-Serving Institutions, and Tribal Colleges in  the jobs training program the President will unveil Thursday evening, September 8th, in an address to a joint session of Congress.

Thanking President Obama for making job creation a top priority for the nation and a major component of his debt reduction plan, Ms. Carrie Billy, Dr. Antonio Flores, and Ms. Lezli Baskerville, respectively the presidents and chief executive officers of AIHEC, HACU, and NAFEO noted, “with the overall U.S. unemployment rate at 9.2 percent and unemployment rates for our collective constituent bases even higher, with the black unemployment rate double the national rate at 18 percent; the American Indian rate at 15.2 percent, and Hispanic unemployment rate at 12 percent, we eagerly anticipate the roll out of your jobs creation proposal. We look forward to reviewing the content of the historic plan and working with you, your Administration, and Members of Congress for passage of a jobs creation bill that includes job training for the chronically unemployed. Our constituents are disproportionately un- and under-employed.”

The troika stated, “We are especially hopeful that your proposal will include a central role for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs) and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), that will better equip our institutions to continue to train and place persons who are chronically unemployed and hard to employ in gainful employment. As you know, many Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) have since their founding served as training grounds for persons traditionally underrepresented in the American labor force. Our technical and community colleges are certifying persons in health professions, in green and energy positions and for technology careers in as few as twelve months. They are also serving as the laboratories and training grounds for partnerships with industry and community-based organizations that operate training programs.

“Our four-year  institutions  are providing sustainable career pathways that lead to a brighter future for tens of thousands of  youth and adults annually by preparing them for well-paying jobs especially in the sciences, technology engineering, and mathematics, and in the emerging green, energy, and security economies. Our diverse institutions are preparing disproportionate numbers of African American, Hispanic, and American Indian workers with cutting edge expertise that is critical to retooling and revitalizing the nation’s infrastructure. Without intervention, which must include MSIs, the nation will experience extensive worker shortages at all technical and professional levels and the nation’s ability to maintain its economic leadership will be jeopardized.”

Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona introduced the Promoting Partnerships to Transform Opportunities Act of 2011, which would create a competitive grant program to support the development of job training programs through MSIs and community based organizations (CBOs). The Grijalva bill would create an opportunity for providing postsecondary education and training to an increasing number of underrepresented minority individuals who are unemployed, underemployed, limited English proficient, veterans, low-income, undereducated, require retraining, or have disabilities.  The Alliance believes that integration of that initiative into President Obama’s overall plan would accelerate his goal of putting more Americans to work, especially hard to employ workers.

The letter to President Obama noted that although some progress has been made by Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians in attaining higher education, disproportionate numbers of workers from these communities lack higher education certificates or degrees.  The Alliance noted, for example, that in 2010, only 19.8 percent of Blacks, 13.9 percent of Hispanics, and 11.5 percent of American Indians had a 2- or 4-year certificate or degree, as compared with 30.3 percent of Whites and 52.4 percent of Asians.  They also indicated that despite progress in penetrating higher ranks in the labor market, disproportionate numbers of Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians remain at the low end of the employment spectrum and in “unskilled” positions. By 2018, 73 percent or twenty-two of the fastest growing jobs in America will require an academic degree or vocational certification.

Billy, Flores and Baskerville outlined the long history and successful track record of TCUs, HSIs, HBCUs and PBIs in partnering with community-based organizations to provide employment training opportunities for hard-to-employ individuals in new and emerging employment fields. They suggested that Congressman Grijalva’s bill would permit MSIs to enhance and expand these partnerships in breadth and scope. “By working with community-based organizations, MSIs can create and expand employment and career options for persons seeking employment not only inside, but outside of the 4-year education network and those unable for a variety of reasons to access education training beyond the community college level.”