A quarter of students at City College of San Francisco are Latino this school year for the first time ever, opening the door to federal grants for the cash-strapped institution, according to college officials.
City College plans to apply for as much as $2.75 million in federal grants from the U.S. Department of Education by the deadline next Monday. The college became eligible to apply for the grants this year because Latinos made up at least 25 percent of the student population at the close of the school year.
Edgar Torres, the chair of the Latin American and Latino/a Studies Department, said he has been working on CCSF becoming a Hispanic-serving institution for 15 years — and he picked up the torch from other faculty members who have since retired.
“It’s a major accomplishment because it opens the door to a lot of major federal grants,” Torres said.
The Department of Education awards up to $550,000 a year for five years in grants meant to bolster programs for Latinos at Hispanic-serving institutions, in particular those that train Latinos to become public school teachers.
Torres said one grant the college plans to apply for would fund training for Child Development students as bilingual instructors in Spanish.
The accreditation crisis at City College sparked a decline in student enrollment in 2012 that continued through this semester and caused the college’s budget to shrink. But Latinos aren’t leaving the college as quickly as other students.
“We have lost Latino students, we’ve just not lost them in the percentages as much as we’ve lost other student populations,” Torres said. “It’s nothing to be proud of either way.”
CCSF spokesperson Evette Davis said in an email on behalf of an administrator that enrollment has declined for all student groups including Latinos, but that “the enrollment decline among Latinos has been slower, resulting in a slow and steady increase in their proportion.”
Torres said that’s because Latinos “have less alternatives, they have less options.”
The number of full-time equivalent students at City College fell from 63,179 in the fall 2011 semester to 36,453 in fall 2016, according to data from the California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office.
City College had 13,948 full-time equivalent students — or 21.8 percent of the population — who were Latino in the fall 2011 semester, compared to 9,381 or 25.7 percent in the fall 2016 semester.
CCSF Board of Trustees President Thea Selby said the college has worked to become a Hispanic-serving institution for years.
“It could be a really positive thing and not just for Latinos and Latinas, but also in general for our different studies,” Selby said.
The college has twice before received federal grants for serving Asian American and Pacific Islander students. In 2008, one grant created a program to help disadvantaged students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. A 2011 grant helped fund a leadership program.