Creating public policy for minority access to higher education : a case study

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Mendez, Gina

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It is a well-known fact that one way to a better life is through education. Individuals who have a college education will earn significantly higher income that those who only have a high school diploma (McGlynn, 2001). Having a college degree is not only beneficial to an individual, but a community with an educated work force can acquire significant economic and social benefits. If there is no access to higher education, individuals and the community generally cannot advance as well economically. Individuals living in South Texas did not have the opportunity to improve their socio-economic status because of the lack of public institutions of higher education in their region. The South Texas Region is comprised mostly of a Hispanic population. It has the “state’s least educated population, the state’s poorest facilities, and the least capacity to generate local taxes to improve educational opportunities” (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, 1993). This study explored predisposing conditions such as racism and examined critical elements such as economic and political power in San Antonio, and the dynamics that empowered a minority group to take the fight of access to a public university to a higher level. According to the legislators interviewed, the move to create a second UT System campus in downtown San Antonio was a community grassroots effort that had a buy-in from members of the Bexar County delegation. The legislators proposed legislation and followed the bill through the approval process in the Texas House and Texas Senate. Before the bill was approved, a lawsuit had been filed by the League of United Latin American Citizens and the American GI Forum against the Texas governor alleging the State had violated the constitutional rights of Mexican Americans by having unequal access to a comprehensive public university. During a time when tuition has skyrocketed and the cost of gasoline has soared, it is amazing how the adage “Build it and they will come” continues to fulfill the dreams of students who may have never had the opportunity to attend a comprehensive institution of higher education had it not been for the UTSA Downtown Campus.



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