The recent news that Columbia Basin College will regain its designation as a Hispanic-serving institution is a huge relief.
The renewed status is a benefit to all students who attend CBC, not just those who are of Hispanic heritage. With the designation comes the ability for school officials to apply for federal grants worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
In light of the enormous cuts to higher education in Washington state, any extra federal money is critical to ensuring CBC can continue to meet the needs of its students.
Without the designation, the gaps between programs and needs likely would be much wider.
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The Hispanic-serving designation is given to two-year and four-year colleges at which 25 percent of the students identify themselves as Hispanic, and CBC was able to qualify with about 27 percent of the college's 3,525 students in that category.
The college didn't lose its status earlier because of a drop in Hispanic students, but rather because federal accounting methods changed.
It used to be that CBC could count all students of Hispanic ethnicity in determining its Hispanic population. However, new rules changed the requirements and only Hispanic students who were working toward a college degree could be counted.
That meant Hispanic students pursuing a general equivalency diploma or taking English as a second language or other remedial classes had to be excluded from the total count.
The last grant the college received in 2006 under the designation expired in September. That five-year grant had been worth $600,000 a year and went to several projects that helped the whole campus.
It paid for computers and technology, workshops for students struggling to keep their grades up, portable anatomy labs and document cameras in classrooms. It also helped pay for the math tutoring center.
All these extra pieces help support students. And the more successful the students are at CBC, the more likely they will be to continue their education at a four-year university. That, in turn, helps everyone in the community. The more educated the population, the stronger our future.
On that note, officials at Washington State University Tri-Cities also are hoping to one day qualify as a Hispanic-serving institution.
Currently, the school has an official Hispanic population of about 18 percent, and it continues to reach out to students in the community.
WSU Tri-Cities Chancellor Vicky Carwein's article in the Herald's Progress edition this year said that WSU Tri-Cities is "well on target" to becoming a Hispanic-serving institution by 2015. With the designation, she said WSU Tri-Cities would become the only public four-year school in the state to receive the designation.
Considering the Tri-City demographics, it makes sense to have CBC and WSU Tri-Cities designated as Hispanic-serving institutions, and with that status comes benefits to all students at both campuses.
It's good news for CBC this year, and we hope it's news WSU Tri-Cities will hear in the future.