April 28, 2016
By Elizabeth Hernandez
"For 20 years, my mom has scrubbed toilets for a living," said Metropolitan State University of Denver student government President Cristian Solano-Cordova.
"I'm not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that." he said Thursday. "To the contrary, my mom worked hard every single day to feed, clothe and house three incredible children. Not a day goes by that I don't think about her sacrifice. How could I ever repay her?"
The 24-year-old student who came to Denver from Mexico illegally when he was 3 years old has done his best to make the most of the opportunities his mother sacrificed for.
Solano-Cordova is a double-major in modern languages and biology.
He said he wouldn't be on the path to helping developmentally disabled children communicate without Metro State's dedication to Latino students.
The university is hoping to earn federal designation as a Hispanic-serving institution by fall 2018. To earn this title and receive the accompanying federal grants, a university requires at least 25 percent of the student population to be Hispanic undergraduate full-time students.
As of fall 2015, Metro State's Hispanic students made up about 22 percent of the school's 20,105 students.
A report released Thursday by Metro State detailed recommendations for the university to reach this mark and enacted a task force to carry out the initiative.
"To grow the entire community economically, we have to focus on the fastest-growing population in the state: Latinos," said Esther Rodriguez, co-chairwoman for the HSI initiative and director of the Center for Urban Education at MSU Denver.
In addition, the university has 311 ASSET students — those living in the country illegally who meet admissions requirements and have been accepted or are continuing students eligible for in-state tuition under state legislation.
"Being undocumented, I understand that a lot of people fail to see there are a lot of us who want to give back to our communities," Solano-Cordova said.
Metro State became Colorado's only university to offer a nonresident tuition rate comparable to the in-state tuition rate to undocumented students in 2012. This included a specific capital contribution that covered the cost of public taxpayer contributions to buildings and grounds.
"This courageous step helped develop the framework that led to the passage of the ASSET bill, which allows qualified undocumented Colorado high school graduates to attend any public Colorado university or college for the in-state tuition rate," the university said.
According to the report, 11 Colorado colleges and universities are designated HSI with an additional 10 — including Metro State — being close to reaching eligibility.
The task force — led by local educators and professors, nonprofits and cultural programs — made 21 recommendations to make Metro State more accessible, welcoming and conducive to success for Hispanic students.
A few of the Hispanic-serving-institution report's suggestions include:
• Provide support for traditional and nontraditional first-generation Latino students from acceptance through degree completion.
• Support multicultural and adult centers to promote engagement.
• Develop high school-to-college transition counselors.
• Increase resources for need-based scholarships, grants and other financial aid.
• Allow ASSET students eligibility to receive federal need-based funding.
• Identify resources to move students from part-time to full-time status.
Source: The Denver Post