Ahead of Hispanic Heritage Month, Padilla Introduces Bipartisan Legislation to Celebrate and Expand Higher Education Opportunities for Latino Students

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Ahead of National Hispanic Heritage Month, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), co-chair of the Senate Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI) Caucus, today announced a pair of legislative initiatives to celebrate the importance of HSIs and expand higher education opportunities for Latino students.

This week, Padilla introduced the bicameral, bipartisan resolution honoring Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week, alongside Senators John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), to designate the week of September 11th as National Hispanic-Serving Institutions Week. The resolution was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representatives Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20), Jenniffer González-Colón (R-Puerto Rico), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.-07), and Juan Ciscomani (R-Ariz.-06). 

Padilla also introduced the bicameral, bipartisan Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act, legislation that aims to provide Hispanic and Latino students with the necessary tools and resources to help close the enduring higher education achievement gap. Representatives Castro and González-Colón are co-leading the bill in the House of Representatives.

“The stark gap in college attendance and completion rates for Latino students in the United States is unacceptable,” said Senator Padilla. “We need to take action to make sure Latino students have the resources and support they need to succeed in higher education and in our workforce. That means supporting our Hispanic-Serving Institutions and the critical role they play in fostering our nation’s economic growth and vitality. As a co-founder of the first-ever Hispanic-Serving Institutions Senate Caucus along with Senator Menendez, I’m committed to ensuring HSIs have the support they need to continue uplifting Latino communities across the country.”

Hispanic-Serving Institutions are accredited, degree-granting, public or private nonprofit institutions of higher education with 25% or higher total undergraduate Hispanic or Latino full-time students. There are 572 HSIs in the United States that enroll over 5 million Hispanic students and 30.5 percent of all undergraduate students — empowering and improving communities. California is home to 170 HSIs and 47 Emerging Hispanic-Serving Institutions.

HSI Week Resolution

This resolution celebrates the vast contributions of HSIs across the country. It also highlights the important role these institutions play in educating many underserved students, helping them attain their full potential by creating opportunities and increasing access to higher education.

In addition to Senators Padilla, Menendez, and Cornyn, the resolution is supported by Senators Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Bob Casey Jr. (D-Penn.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), John Fetterman (D-Penn.), Ben Ray Lujan (D-N.M.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Wash.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), and James Lankford (R-Okla.) in the Senate. 

This resolution is supported by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).

Full text of the resolution is available here.


The HERE Act would create a new federal grant program to fund partnerships between Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) and school districts with significant Hispanic and Latino enrollment that focus on improving college readiness and completion. The bill is cosponsored by Menendez, co-chair of the Senate HSI Caucus, Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).

The Census Bureau estimates the Hispanic population in the United States grew to roughly 63.7 million in 2022. Despite that growth, the current education system has failed to sufficiently support Hispanic college completion. 28 percent of Latino adults have an associate degree or higher, compared to 48 percent of white adults, and the graduation rate of Hispanics at four-year institutions was 13 percent lower than their white peers.

“HACU wholeheartedly endorses the HERE Act to create a path of success and opportunity for Hispanic students across the nation, who are still grappling with achievement gaps and the challenge of coordinating PK-12 and higher education collaborations. We are eager to join forces with Rep. Castro, Rep. González-Colón, and Senator Padilla to champion this bill through Congress, which will go far in fostering a college-going culture, provide expanded support in the path through college and beyond, and address the needs students must meet outside the classroom to ensure their successful course to graduation,” said Antonio R. Flores, President and CEO, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU).

“NASSP is honored to once again sponsor the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment Act, and our members offer their heartfelt thanks to Senator Alex Padilla, Congressman Joaquin Castro and their teams for their leadership on this vital legislation,” said NASSP CEO, Ronn Nozoe. “Strengthening collaboration between school districts and Hispanic Serving Institutions is essential to set students up for success on day one in college. Given the exorbitant costs of remediation on both higher learning institutions and students’ futures, this act will undoubtedly pay for itself many times over when enacted.”

“U.S. Senator Alex Padilla’s bill – the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act – would be a game changer for the University of California and we offer our strongest support. This bill would encourage collaboration between Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs) at the university and college level and emerging HSIs. It would go a long way toward closing the academic achievement gaps in Hispanic-serving high schools and school districts. UC is determined to improve on our already remarkable track record in recruiting and graduating the most diverse student body in California and Senator Padilla’s creative contribution will help us cross that finish line,” said University of California Provost Katherine S. Newman.

“The California State University (CSU) would like to thank Sen. Padilla for his work on the HERE Act and endorse his efforts. Through its Graduation 2025 initiative, the CSU is laser-focused on improving persistence and graduation for all of its students, and particularly students from underserved backgrounds. With 21 out of 23 of our universities being Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), the CSU recognizes that the HERE Act would help establish important pathways for a significant number of our students to achieve academic and career success. Senator Padilla is at the forefront of helping institutions like the CSU improve educational attainment for students from underserved backgrounds, particularly in STEM fields, and the CSU is proud to partner with him and endorse this legislation,” said Nathan Evans, Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic and Student Affairs, The California State University.

“The California Community Colleges are proud to support the Hispanic Educational Resources and Empowerment (HERE) Act of 2023. We thank Senator Padilla for his leadership on the HERE Act. As one of the fastest growing populations in the U.S., Hispanics and Latinos make up eighteen percent of the U.S. population and forty-six percent of California community college students. This bill will ensure Hispanic-Serving Institutions and their students have access to critical resources to meet the future needs of the U.S. workforce,” said the California Community Colleges.

The HERE Act would support partnerships between Hispanic-Serving Institutions and school districts with high enrollments of Hispanic and Latino students that focus on: 

  • Creating a college-going culture for students through programs that promote early exposure to the opportunities provided by higher education.
  • Improving school-based and institutional practices to fully prepare high school students for the academic demands of college, such as opportunities for advanced coursework.
  • Supporting students through the college application and transition process.
  • Addressing non-academic needs that serve as barriers to college enrollment and completion, such as housing and food insecurity.
  • Developing and offering ‘grow your own’ programs that encourage students to pursue teaching as a profession. 

The HERE Act is endorsed by the Hispanic Association of College and Universities, Latinos For Education, National Association of Secondary School Principals, the School Superintendents Association, the University of California System, the California State University, the California Community Colleges, National Association for College Admission Counseling, Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, National Education Association, UnidosUS, All4Ed, TeachPlus, Campaign for College Opportunity, American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the American Association of Community Colleges.

A one-pager of the bill is available here.

Full text of the bill is available here.

In April of last year, Senators Padilla, Menendez, and Cornyn unveiled an adopted bipartisan resolution recognizing the 30th anniversary since the founding of the Hispanic National Internship Program (HNIP), a seminal program of HACU known for promoting and celebrating Latino excellence and creating greater career development opportunities for Latino and Hispanic students across the country. Padilla and Cornyn also introduced an adopted resolution last May to express support for closing the gap in STEM jobs among Latino students and young professionals entering the workforce. 


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