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Hispanic Undergraduate Success Center to Open at JFK University Through $2.6 Million Federal Grant

November 4, 2015
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San Francisco Bay Area institution secures federal grant through Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program; Center to strengthen efforts aimed at supporting Hispanic students in the East Bay region.

PLEASANT HILL, CA - John F. Kennedy University, which as part of its mission is committed to furthering educational opportunities for a diverse student population, has been awarded a $2.6 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to fund a new Hispanic Undergraduate Success Center. The state-of-the-art Center will provide students with a full suite of services, including tutors and mentors, a lending library, as well as retention model system to support the academic success of Hispanic students.

The prestigious grant comes just after JFK University won official designation as a Hispanic Serving Institution, a federal program designed to assist colleges or universities in the United States help first-generation, minority low-income, Latino students succeed in their studies. In order to qualify for the status, an institution must report at least 25 percent of students as being of Hispanic origin.

“Most Hispanic students at JFK University are the first in their family to get a college education and they don’t have the same resources or support services that others may enjoy,” said Debra Bean, JFK University’s Interim President. “Our mission is to ensure student success, and that means doing everything we can to make sure we are providing our students, including our Hispanic students, with the tools they need to flourish.”

The five-year, Title V Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program grant will, among other things, pay for an innovative system to track individual academic progress and determine where support is needed, enabling counselors to take a pro-active approach in focusing on student needs. This effort would help JFK University identify those who are at-risk or high-need, allowing the institution to begin working with them earlier, rather than waiting until they are placed on academic probation or fail a course.

Other areas targeted by the grant and included as Center services include: 

  • Bolstering educational outreach efforts in the surrounding community to educate the Hispanic community on the value of education and enrollment resources available. One in four students at the university are Hispanic, but that ratio is much higher in nearby areas. What’s more, JFK University employees who work with the Latino population say many Hispanic residents are often unaware of their postsecondary options or how to fund their college education. Census data shows that just 16 percent of the adult Latino population in the region has a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 40 percent of the total adult population in the region.
  • Developing articulation agreements with neighboring community colleges. Many regional community colleges are serving Hispanic students in the area, but students may not be aware of all of the support services offered by JFK University. The University wants to provide clear pathways for these students to complete their bachelor’s degree through articulation agreements and outreach efforts that demonstrate the University community’s commitment to serving a diverse student population.
  • Building an endowment fund that will support future programs for Hispanic students. As part of its commitment to supporting academic success for the region’s diverse student population, JFK University has pledged to build an endowment fund that can be earmarked specifically for programs that will benefit Hispanic and underserved students.

“We want to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates of Hispanic students in the community, and we want Hispanic students to feel at home at JFK University,” said the program’s Project Director and JFK University Chief of Staff Dr. Judy Castro, who led the effort to secure the grant. “This is an opportunity for us to give back to the community and help our students achieve their educational goals.”