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Board of Regents Address Educational and Economic Access of Georgia’s Growing Hispanic Population

Atlanta — June 9, 1999

The sharp rise in Georgia’s Hispanic population – which totals close to a half million people currently and will number nearly 1 million residents by the year 2020 – holds promise for significant economic benefits for the state, if identified challenges can be tackled, according to a report released today by the Georgia Board of Regents at their monthly meeting.

The report notes that Georgia’s growing Latino community could help to position the state as an economic leader in international business, if the bilingual and bicultural capabilities of Hispanics and other residents are optimized by the educational and business communities.

The report, “Report of the Hispanic Task Force of the Board of Regents,” was prepared by the University System of Georgia’s Hispanic Task Force, an ad hoc group chaired by Southern Polytechnic State University President Dr. Lisa A. Rossbacher and staffed by Board of Regents Senior Vice Chancellor for Human and External Resources Dr. Arthur N. Dunning. The high-level group of business, civic and educational leaders – formed at the suggestion of Board of Regents Chairman Edgar L. Jenkins – has been at work since September 1998 exploring implications of Georgia’s Hispanic growth rate.

Dr. Dunning, President Rossbacher and Frank Ros, director of Corporate Latin Affairs for The Coca-Cola Company, presented the report to the regents. A native of Spain whose family immigrated to the United States, Ros is a University of Georgia alumnus who served as a member of the task force.

The Hispanic Task Force’s report deals extensively with existing barriers that are impeding full educational access for Georgia’s Latino students at the K-12 and post-secondary levels, which ultimately will limit maximized workforce opportunities. Three primary barriers were identified – language, financial and residency – with 17 proposed recommendations outlined to address specific issues.

“The Latino community has the potential for huge contributions to our state in the very near future,” stated Dr. Rossbacher. “Our recommendations are aimed at removing the obstacles that prevent full access to the benefits of higher education and the economic gains of the knowledge-based workplace. If the University System and our partners successfully tackle this issue, we will make a unique investment in Georgia’s continued economic success which will pay incredible dividends in the years to come. The results will be more educated Georgians, a larger workforce of bilingual professionals prepared to compete in the state’s workforce and the international business arena, and increased buying power driving the state’s economy.”

Some of the key findings of the Hispanic Task Force report are:

  • Georgia’s Hispanic population is currently around 475,000, and it is projected to increase to around 665,000 in 2005, 825,000 in 2010, and more than a million in 2020.
  • Georgia’s Hispanic population is younger than other groups. The average age of Georgia’s Hispanics is 26.4 years old, compared to 36.9 for the total population. This will foster significant impacts on the state’s educational system and labor market.
  • The average unemployment figures for Georgia’s counties with the most-concentrated Hispanic population is 3.3 percent. This number is substantially lower than the state’s unemployment rate of 4.2 percent, which is currently at an all-time low.
  • In 1997, Hispanics in Georgia spent $640 million, with an average of $19,897 per household. This rate of expenditure is a proportionately higher expenditure than all other population segments.
  • The buying power of Georgia’s Latino population is among the fastest-growing in the nation, currently accounting for more than $3 billion annually. Sales and receipts generated by Hispanic-owned businesses were almost $1.3 billion in 1998.
  • Georgia’s economic base and growth are attracting increasing numbers of Latin-American-based companies. In fact, Latin America represents the greatest single source region of international business investment in Georgia.

The 17 recommendations made in the task force report are grouped into four categories: curricular issues and academic programs, collaborative efforts with other entities, University System admissions requirements and related policies, and recruitment and marketing. Some of the major recommendations include:

  • Encouraging individual academic programs at USG institutions, such as teacher education and social work, to require advanced foreign language study as part of the major;
  • Encouraging teacher education programs to offer an endorsement in English for Speakers of Other Languages;
  • Recruitment and retention of additional Latino faculty and staff within the University System;
  • Increasing the number and variety of overseas study programs in Latin American and Caribbean countries, including via the Regents Study Abroad Scholarships program;
  • Development and dissemination of a collaborative informational marketing initiative, with the support of the Board of Regents, the Department of Education, and the Department of Technical and Adult Education, to communicate the potential for Hispanic success in higher education and the value of Hispanic employees in contributing to Georgia’s economic growth;
  • Increasing the number and variety of cooperative education and internship opportunities for students, particularly with Latino-owned businesses; and
  • Exploring with the state Attorney General’s office the prospect of being authorized to offer University System admission to any student who is academically prepared and a graduate of a Georgia high school.

“The Report of the Hispanic Task Force of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia” was presented to the regents for first reading at today’s meeting. The group’s recommendations will be acted upon at the Board of Regents next regularly scheduled meeting, set for August 10-11, 1999, in Atlanta.

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