National Hispanic University’s founders wanted a bilingual, bicultural environment with smaller class sizes to serve first generation college students.
…The university, which is private, has always had a hard time staying in the black because most of its students need financial help. And after its founder, Roberto Cruz, died of cancer in 2002, it got even tougher. Everyone says he’s the guy who could make a billionaire look at an old elementary school and see a first-rate college. Billionaires like Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Sobrato. “His hands were like baseball mitts, and he just had an engaging personality,” Sobrato says of Roberto Cruz. “He was the type that you just can’t say no to.”
He funded the three-story building that houses the university today. But the longtime board member says money problems persisted, and selling the nonprofit university to a for-profit company, four years ago, was a good option at the time. “We were always in the red, and frankly, I got tired, the rest of the board got tired of writing checks,” he says.
Sobrato says the buyer, Laureate International Universities, poured millions into NHU and created online courses to entice students who could pay without financial help. But due in part to its new for-profit status, the school lost federal and state grant eligibility for liberal studies, one of its most popular majors. It was a huge financial blow that was hard to recover from. Laureate cut its losses, and the school will close its doors next year, although there’s talk that the credential program might merge with another university and stay in tact.
NHU President and Provost Gladys Ato doesn’t blame her employer and says they’re doing the best they can to get students who aren’t graduating this year into other programs. But she says it’s been an emotional time. “Every single person has such a unique story as to why they came here, having to go through that process of trying to understand what this means for them in the future, how they will carry on legacy. It’s a tough process to go through,” says Ato.