The UA saw its largest increase in Hispanic student enrollment in nearly 30 years from 2009 to 2010, following a trend seen across the nation.
The number of 18 to 24-year-old Hispanics enrolled in U.S. colleges increased 24 percent between 2009 and 2010, according to a report released last week by the Pew Hispanic Center. Hispanic enrollment at the UA increased more than 7 percent from 6,245 to 6,712 students during the same time period.
Hispanics represented about 16 percent of the UA’s enrollment in 2010, compared to the national average of 15 percent. Nationwide, Hispanic student enrollment increased the most out of any minority group with much of the growth occurring at two-year colleges, according to the report.
A 7 percent increase in the 18 to 24-year-old Hispanic population could have contributed to the national enrollment growth. The increasing high school graduation rate of Hispanic students combined with outreach plays a role at the UA, according to Rick Kroc, associate vice provost of the Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support.
“Even if we didn’t do anything differently, we’d probably have increases,” Kroc said. “But our rates are increasing more rapidly.”
More focus on college preparation and access could also be helping colleges close the gap in minority enrollment, according to Rudy McCormick, director of the UA Office of Early Academic Outreach.
“I definitely think there’s an emphasis right now,” McCormick said. “The president has the goal for the United States to lead the world in college preparation. A lot of national initiatives are focusing on those efforts.”
The Office of Early Academic Outreach has multiple programs for low-income, first generation and ethnic minority students continuing from kindergarten to 12th grade. The goal is to increase the college enrollment rates of eligible students, McCormick said.
The UA would have to increase its Hispanic enrollment to 25 percent to be considered a Hispanic-Serving Institution, which is a designation already held by UA South. The incoming UA freshman class is about 24 percent Hispanic, according to statistics from the Office of Institutional Research and Planning Support.
Arizona’s demographics contribute to the increases, said Andrea Romero, associate professor of Mexican American Studies and Family Studies and Human Development. Hispanics and Latinos make up about 30 percent of Arizona’s population compared to the 16 percent average in the rest of the country, according to statistics gathered in 2010 from the U.S. Census Bureau.
“I think because we’re a land-grant institution, we need to reflect the population,” Romero added.
Retention is key when trying to reach enrollment goals, according to Socorro Carrizosa, program director of Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs. The center has programs to connect students to resources on campus as well as to each other.
“If the university wants to serve the community, this is certainly a community it needs to reach out to,” Carrizosa said.
Programs such as Abuelitas Reaching Out to Mentor and Apapachar Students, during which elders in the community mentor students at the center, help students stay connected to the university.
“If you feel like you belong and are valued, you’re going to stay,” Carrizosa said. “Retention is critical.”
The Office of Early Academic Outreach continues to promote colleges to underrepresented groups in new ways. The office launched the Start Now website in January to provide information to students and parents on what courses to take in high school and how to apply to college.
McCormick said the office cannot track success in terms of numbers for all of its programs, but he thinks they have an effect on UA enrollment.
“We hope we’re a part of the solution,” he said.