NAU President Intentionally Admitted More Hispanic Students For More Federal Money

NAU President Intentionally Admitted More Hispanic Students For More Federal Money

By Corinne Murdock |

Northern Arizona University (NAU) admitted that it purposefully admitted more Hispanic students in order to receive more federal funding. 

The Department of Education (ED) rewards higher education institutions for having a certain racial makeup within their student population, called a “Hispanic-Serving Institution.”

In order to achieve HSI status, colleges or universities must have Hispanic students making up at least 25 percent of their full-time equivalent student population, as well as a significant number of students requiring needs-based financial aid. 

NAU President José Luis Cruz Rivera said accomplishment of their HSI designation in 2020 was intentional in an interview last week with Diverse Issues in Higher Education.

“NAU applied for classification and then appointed key leadership to ensure we serve our Hispanic students well,” said Cruz Rivera. “It’s not just about meeting the number threshold, but rather about really carrying out our mission and supporting the success of our students.” 

Hispanics aren’t the only racial group that NAU has prioritized. NAU pledged free tuition to Native Americans in November. In March 2021, NAU launched multiple initiatives totaling $1.3 million to increase the number of both Native American and Hispanic science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) graduates. 

Following their HSI classification, NAU began to prioritize Hispanic students through their strategic plan, NAU 2025 – Elevating Excellence. These prioritizations include Hispanic-specific retention strategies concerning financial aid, mental health services, and community building; hiring and retention strategies to attract more Hispanic faculty; and faculty training to better understand Hispanic students. 

HSI federal programming was reestablished in 2021 through an executive order by President Joe Biden: the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics (Initiative). The concept originated in 1990 under former President George H.W. Bush, but fell out of use in subsequent administrations until Biden was elected. 

As part of the initiative, Biden established the Advisory Commission on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity for Hispanics. The commission convened in its inaugural meeting earlier this month. 

Included in the 21-member commission are three Arizonans. One of them is NAU’s program director and teacher for its Arizona K12 Center, Juliana Urutubey. 

Urutubey was named the 2021 National Teacher of the Year and the 2019 Chicanos por La Causa Esperanza Latina Teaching Award while working as an educator in Las Vegas, Nevada. Urutubey recently relocated to Phoenix and joined NAU’s Arizona Teacher Residency. 

Chicanos por La Causa has been intertwined with several major controversial events in recent years, including a federal pandemic loan fraud investigation; membership with the Aspen Institute, the liberal think tank that played a major role in the cover-up of investigative reporting on Hunter Biden’s laptop; and funding to pass propositions outlawing debt collection efforts and awarding in-state college tuition rates to illegal immigrants.

Another Arizonan on the commission is Anna Maria Chávez: President and CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation. Chávez was formerly the CEO of Girl Scouts of the USA; director of intergovernmental affairs, urban relations and community development/military affairs advisor, and deputy chief of staff for former Gov. Janet Napolitano; and several Clinton administration positions, including legal counsel for the Federal Highway Administration, attorney advisor in the Office of the Counsel to the President, senior policy advisor to former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater and SBA Administrator Aida Alvaraz. 

Chávez has also served as Executive Vice President and Chief Growth Officer for the National Council on Aging; in June 2020, she became the executive director and CEO of the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and currently serves as an ex-officio director on its Board of Directors; in 2021, Chávez was appointed as the inaugural chief impact officer of Encantos and president of their online presence. Encantos investors include Kapor Capital, Steve Case’s Revolution Rise of the Rest Fund, Chelsea Clinton’s Metrodora Capital, and L’ATTITUDE Ventures.

The third is Teresa Leyba Ruiz, who became the senior vice president and chief advocacy and programs officer for Education Forward Arizona (EFA) in April. Ruiz formerly served as the president of Glendale Community College (GCC), part of the Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD), having worked in various leadership roles with GCC for over a decade. Ruiz also participated in the Aspen Institute’s 2018-19 Presidential Fellows Program (as mentioned earlier in this article, the Aspen Institute played a major role in covering up the Biden laptop scandal).

EFA received millions from AmeriCorps, the Arizona Department of Education, and Helios Education Foundation in recent years. They also received funding from a wide swath of major entities, including MCCCD and NAU: Alliance Bank of Arizona, Arizona State University, Bank of America, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Maricopa County, the Salt River Project, State Farm, University of Arizona, and Wells Fargo. Leaders from a number of these entities serve on EFA’s board of directors.

Per their agenda, the commission discussed ways they could advance educational equity in K-12 and higher education using Biden’s budget, reviewed federal data on Hispanics, and discussed means of strengthening career pathways for Hispanic advancement. 

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to