Hispanic enrollment rises, other groups falling
While enrollment numbers for Hispanics are increasing, enrollment numbers for other races and ethnicities has decreased over the last four years, according to data points graphed from USU’s Office of Analysis, Assessment and Accreditation.
Students said possible reasons for the upward trend in Hispanic enrollment include an increase in the Hispanic population in the U.S. as a whole and an increased determination in the Latino culture to succeed.
Leo Torres-Reyes, a freshman majoring in biology and member of Latino Student Union, or LSU, said many Hispanics are starting to understand college is an essential way to be successful.
“Our parents are coming into this country for us to have a better future,” Torres-Reyes said. “And I think a lot of Hispanics are starting to realize that college is what’s going to get them further into the future.”
Sandra Martinez, a sophomore majoring in sociology and the president of LSU, said the Latino population is growing in the U.S. in general as Mexicans immigrate to get a better job and education.
“Not that all the other ethnicities and races aren’t, but I think the Latinos are very determined and very hard-working,” Martinez said. “And so I think that’s a big reason why we are the ones with an upward trend here at USU.”
Karrie Begay, the multicultural recruitment specialist at USU’s Admissions office, said the determination aspect of Latino culture in combination with the Development Relief and Education for Alien Minors Act has made getting a better life and living the “American dream” more attainable.
Begay said the DREAM Act makes it possible for undocumented students to come to school without being penalized or deported. She said in Utah, those who have been living in the state for three years, who will graduate from a high school in the state or who either have a certain kind of visa or are working on filing paperwork, can apply for the DREAM Act.
“They won’t get any sort of government funding to come to school,” Begay said. “They can apply for as many private scholarships, but it does give them the option to not get turned down by a higher education institution.”
Martinez said another thing that has possibly helped is the Latino Student Union and Access and Diversity reaching out to high school students.
“Even with our event Fiesta Americas, we let our students know that we are Latinos and that we can come to college, and we offer them scholarships,” Martinez said.
Black and African American trend
The trend of black and African-American enrollment has gone slightly downward since 2010, but it is not very sharp. In fact, it has stayed more consistent than Asians, Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders, American Indian/Alaska Natives and even Caucasians in recent years. In addition, the number of black compared to white students is very different. There are just more than 100 black students enrolled for the spring semester of 2014, compared to more than 12,000 white students.
The trend of black students has been up and down because there are generally more students in the fall semesters than there are in the spring.
Shalayna Guiao, a senior majoring in vocal performance and president of USU’s Black Student Union, or BSU, and Jeunee Roberts, a junior majoring in vocal performance and vice president of BSU, said there is no one reason for this up and down trend nor the slight decline. They said this could be due to a number of factors, including matriculation.
Roberts said it might also have to do with recruitment mostly visiting places where they have had past success. She said the Athletic department seems to have brought in the most black students.
Roberts said the way advertising has been done at USU tends to emphasize black people playing sports even though there are other things they can be good at, and she questioned why it does not emphasize that.
“As human beings, we are capable of learning different subjects and emphasizing in something that we are good at,” Guiao said.
Roberts said she feels like black students are often used as a sales pitch for the school. She had seen situations in which the school tried to show that it is inclusive even though there is clearly an overwhelming majority.
“I think it happens a lot especially when people come to visit the school,” Roberts said. “They want to show that it’s ‘all inclusive’ when that ‘all inclusive’ would mean five white kids and one black kid.”
Roberts said in contrast, historically black colleges and universities, or HBCUs, do not feel the need to show off their diversity because it is already their comfort zone, whereas black people are outside Utah’s comfort zone.
“I think the question should come down to ‘Is this school really trying to get a diverse campus?’” Roberts said. “Is that really what they’re looking for?”
Begay, who is half Hispanic and half Native American, said a reason for the low numbers of enrolled Native American students is because college is an unknown place for them.
“In the American Indian culture, it’s always taught to you that you’re supposed to stay close to your home and take care of your family and your elders,” Begay said. “Sometimes for some families, college isn’t a priority because your family always comes first.”
She said despite this, the college mindset among the Native Americans has recently been increasing.
Begay said the collectivist mindset of Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in taking care of their families could be a reason for the low numbers of that group as well.
Begay said she is not entirely sure why there is a downward trend with the white student enrollment. She said it could possibly be a result of the age of missionaries for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints being lowered. However, she said the recruitment strategies have changed to keep those numbers up, and USU ended up being among the top Utah schools after that incident, having been able to keep from having a deficit.
Begay said USU’s recruitment goes to all of the West Coast states. In addition, it has also been implemented in the East Coast over the last two to three years, with open houses held and scholarships handed out on the spot.
According to Begay, there is an increased interest in USU among people in the East Coast partly because the price of tuition is lower here than it is there. Because of this, a growth of various groups is expected in the coming years.
“I wouldn’t pinpoint just one race, but I would pinpoint a bunch of different ones,” Begay said.
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