Hispanic enrollment at university continues to rise

Ruth Lopez, sophomore radio-TV-film major, is a first-generation college student. Her parents never made it past high school.

That is the case for the majority of the growing Hispanic population enrolled in universities, said Ray Brown, dean of admissions.

In a state where Hispanics make up 36 percent of the population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the university's Hispanic enrollment is less than 10 percent. However, over the last 11 years, the number of incoming Hispanic freshmen students has increased 67 percent, going from 92 Hispanic freshmen in 1998 to 154 in last year's freshman class, Brown said. Those numbers need to keep improving, he said.

"If we don't enroll more and more Hispanic students, we're going to look so different," he said. "I don't pretend to think we need to be absolutely reflective of every demographic that this state has – not today, but it might be nice to work toward that sometime."

The university has several programs aimed at increasing the number of Hispanics on campus, part of an effort to give more students the opportunity Lopez said she had.

"My parents never went to college and came to America for a better future," Lopez said. "My mother wanted me to go to college and get a better job rather than resort to some job that anyone can do."

One of the programs the university recently debuted is the Hispanic Senior Experience. The event, which began earlier this month, brought together current and prospective Hispanic students and introduced prospective students to advisers.

Percentage of Hispanic students in freshman class and number of Hispanic freshmen
1998- 3.79, 92 students
1999- 5.26, 75 students
2000- 6.2, 92 students
2001- 5.94, 90 students
2002- 5.65, 82 students
2003- 6.3, 100 students
2004- 5.7, 91 students
2005- 7.14, 115 students
2006- 9.08, 150 students
2007- 9.0, 148 students
2008- 9.45, 154 student

Aaron Marez, an admissions counselor, said the addition of more Hispanic students will strengthen the university's mission of educating ethical citizens in a community that reflects different demographics.

Brown said the university has recruitment programs aimed at minority students on the local, statewide and nationwide level.

Community Scholars, a program for students in inner-city high schools within the Dallas-Fort Worth area who would otherwise be unable to pay for college is one such program, Brown said.

Victoria Herrera, regional director of admissions in Houston, said the university also hosts Camp College, a statewide program that brings minority high school students to campus and exposes them to the college experience.

Mike Marshall, assistant director of admissions,
said the total number of Hispanics enrolled in the university in 2003 was 432. The Hispanic undergraduate population has experienced a dramatic increase since then, Marshall said. The student population has grown to 625 undergraduates as of last year, he said.

Marshall said the university works closely with the National Hispanic Institute in the Collegiate World Series program for high school juniors and educates them about the college world.

Herrera said enrolling more minority students is a building process, but that exposure is what has really improved the direction of the university.

"We have lots of work to do, but the momentum is there and I feel like it's going to continue," Herrera said. "We've made great strides so far."