Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Historic Ethnic Studies Program in Financial Trouble

San Francisco State University has announced it will stop covering an annual deficit of $200,000 for the College of Ethnic Studies next year.
Source: Wikimedia Commons/ via Eigenes Werk (CC BY-SA 3.0)

The nation’s first and only freestanding College of Ethnic Studies is struggling to pay its debts.

The administration of San Francisco State University announced recently that the institution has been footing a $200,000 annual deficit for the college — something it can’t continue to do. The program has until after the 2016-17 school year to come up with a plan for future years.

Otherwise, some worry it may be forced to cut funding for the college’s César E. Chávez Institute for research and the Student Resource and Empowerment Center, as well as some graduate-level courses and new hires. Faculty say such cuts would incapacitate the program

Before a packed Feb. 25 meeting with students and faculty of the program, SFSU President Les Wong said the college had been asked to adapt to a new budgetary discipline, NBC News reports

When asked about the new budgetary discipline Friday, Monique Beeler of the SFSU communications department said in an email that the president has asked each of the university’s six colleges to form a budget advisory committee made up of students, faculty and staff. The committees’ reports will be taken into consideration as part of the budget review process, “which may include re-assessing the needs of individual colleges, including the College of Ethnic Studies.” Currently, there are no planned budget cuts for any of the colleges, she said. 

The College of Ethnic Studies was born out of a historic student strike that lasted for five months in 1968 and 1969. Led by the Black Student Union, Third World Liberation Front and community leaders, activists demanded equal access to public higher education, more minority faculty, and a curriculum that would embrace the history and culture of all people, including ethnic minorities, according to the university’s website

The program offers undergraduate degrees in Latina/Latino, Asian American, American Indian and Africana studies, as well as master’s degrees in Asian American studies and ethnic studies. Students can also minor in Arab and Muslim ethnicities diaspora, as well as race and resistance studies. 

The budget crisis comes at a time when interest in these degrees is growing – as is the Latino student population at the university, College of Ethnic Studies Dean Kenneth P. Monteiro said in a statement. He also cited institutional research showing that SFSU students who take ethnic studies courses are more likely to graduate than their peers who do not. 

Monteiro and others argued the college had been habitually underfunded by Academic Affairs, “guaranteeing an artificial deficit.”

Colleen Flaherty of Inside Higher Ed reports that the college’s basic operating budget is around $5 million, but post-recession funding it receives from SFSU does not reflect that.  

“Last year, for example, Ethnic Studies received an initial budget allocation from Academic Affairs of $3.6 million, with additional allocation of $1.3 million, and ran a deficit of about $244,000, according to information from the university. But Monteiro said that those allocations added up to $275,000 less than was required to pay mandatory salaries,” she writes.

Wong acknowledged in an interview with Inside Higher Ed that the College of Ethnic Studies may well be underfunded as a result of recession-era cuts. In exchange for covering the additional $200,000 this year — which Flaherty notes would have previously come from Academic Affairs, and not the president — he’ll engage in longer-term talks about the college’s future. 

SFSU, which is part of the California State University System, is recovering from system-wide budget cuts and consistent underfunding, Wong said in a Feb. 29 statement. ”However, our five values of Equity, Community, Resilience, Courage and Life of the Mind will see us through the decisions that will enable the College of Ethnic Studies to continue to thrive and serve our students for decades to come.”

With questions or comments about Latino Ed Beat, contact Natalie Gross. You can also follow her on Twitter @NGross_EWA.

Read other Latino Ed Beat articles.

Related Posts

Source: Public Health Image Library (CC Public Domain)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

How Ethnic Studies Programs Might Help Latino Students

Ethnic studies programs have had their fair share of controversy in this nation, but researchers maintain they can be a way to improve engagement and student outcomes.

Studies show offering a culturally relevant education -- including courses in Mexican American studies and a mariachi band -- can improve academic performance among Mexican American students. Source: Flickr/ Justin Wagner (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Report: Mexican-American Studies Breed Better Academic Performance

Student participation in Mexican-American studies can be linked to better outcomes on state standardized tests and increased chances of earning a high school diploma, according to a recent report by the University of Arizona. 

The university researchers’ findings, published in the December 2014 edition of the American Educational Research Journal, reveal students’ chances of completing high school increased nearly 10 percent.

A new interdisciplinary Latino studies curriculum in the Chicago Public Schools incorporates things like the Mayan counting system into the kindergarten study of numbers.
Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Chicago Schools Launch a Latino Studies Curriculum

Chicago Public Schools has announced the debut of a new interdisciplinary Latino and Latin American Studies curriculum that will be taught to students in kindergarten through 10th grade.

The new curriculum includes complete units and lessons across a range of disciplines, Melissa Sanchez reports for Catalyst Chicago

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Is Arizona’s Ban on Mexican-American Studies Legal?

Does an Arizona law banning Mexican-American studies curriculum in public schools intentionally discriminate against Hispanics? That’s the question a federal appeals court has claimed warrants a trial. 

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Looking at the Effects of Ethnic Studies Curriculum

School districts across the country are scrambling to adapt to the growing number of Latino students by hiring more Latino teachers and incorporating more culturally appropriate material into the curriculum. In Arizona, however, a recently passed state law is designed to get rid of ethnic studies classes, which opponents say are divisive.

Blog: Latino Ed Beat

Educators’ Interest in Latino Studies Courses Grows

Arizona made national headlines in 2010 with its law banning ethnic studies in public schools. That move resulted in the dismantling of the Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies program.

Four years later, educators in Texas and California are trying to drum up support for Latino and ethnic studies programs. The majority of public school students in both states are Latino.