National Hispanic University announces closure

SAN JOSE, Calif.

This is a small school that has taken in Latinos and many other students over the years, who might otherwise feel lost in a large community college or state university. It started in Oakland before moving to San Jose, but its days are numbered.

The students describe National Hispanic University as a special place to get a degree. They call it "familia" or in English, family.

"This school honestly, like it made me feel like I was at home, like the whole impact of the whole familia thing, like it's here," said Lorena Gonzalez, a first year student.

Many of the students major in business or in education with a goal to become teachers and role models for the next generation.

However, last year about a fourth of its students suddenly became ineligible for federal education grants and loans after the community-based university became part of Laureate Education, a for-profit organization. The school could not convince the U.S. Department of education to overturn its decision. Enrollment dropped from about 800 to 550. Now, it will close midyear 2015.

"Our students here come with a tremendous amount of hope. Some of our students haven't been allowed to go to other universities, and they came here because we believed in them, and we believed in the capacity that we could provide for them to have a successful educational experience," said Gladys Ato, Psy.D., the university president and provost.

Over the next year, many details have to be worked out, including the ability to transfer credits to other schools. Students are confused and concerned.

Alejandra Valladarez is the student body representative. She told ABC7 News, "I will hold them accountable, and I want a contract stating what efforts are going to be given to the students to make sure and insure that they're going to finish their university degree anywhere else."

Elected officials hope the school can be saved.

"I will do everything that I can to work with my colleagues, elected colleagues, and other community leaders as well as the Foundation of National Hispanic to see what we can do about continuing the programs here," said San Jose City Councilmember Xavier Campos.

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