By Anne Button
With Latino student enrollment at an all-time high, a group of faculty and staff convened on Friday to discuss progress toward Metro State’s goal of becoming a federally designated Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), with 25 percent of enrollment comprising Latinos.
“When we launched this goal in 2007, Latino student enrollment was only 13 percent,” said President Stephen Jordan. “As of this fall, 18.2 percent of our overall enrollment is Latino.”
Jordan said the progress could be attributed to a number of efforts, including a bilingual marketing campaign, new curricular focuses on Latinos, offerings such as the Excel program, the changing demographics of the city and the state, “and, most of all, the hard work of the HSI Task Force, which in 2008 produced a list of 55 recommendations to get us to HSI status.”
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Judi Diaz Bonacquisti presented data showing that Latino enrollment had gone from 2,768 in fall 2005 to 4,281 this fall, a 54 percent increase in six years, with a spike beginning in 2009. She also cited projections from the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE) of ethnicity of Colorado high school graduates over the next 10 years. WICHE predicts that in 2021-22, the number of white high school graduates will remain the same as it is this year, while Latino high school graduates will increase by more than 8,000 students, from 10,681 to 18,867.
“How are we, as an institution, preparing ourselves to accept and serve these students?” Diaz Bonacquisti asked. “Last year, Latinos were 21 percent of our Pell grant recipients... Across Colorado, 34 percent of Latinos at four-year colleges have remedial needs…. In being a Hispanic Serving Institution, what does it mean to serve?”
Deputy Provost Luis Torres, who co-chaired the HSI Task Force with Diaz Bonacquisti, described progress on some of the task force recommendations. “One of the unanimous recommendations was on the issue of tuition for undocumented immigrants,” said Torres, who lauded the College for its advocacy on the issue. “The Board of Trustees, President Jordan, the Faculty Senate, all have supported the DREAM Act, and the Asset Bill, too. President Jordan went before the state legislature to support it, the only college president in the state to do so.” Torres noted that many in the community had praised Metro State’s television ad featuring student Zaida Gomez-Kuri, a Mexican immigrant, that appeared on Channel 9.
Associate Vice President for Communications and Advancement Cathy Lucas described how the College’s marketing efforts took an integrated approach, weaving elements of the HSI initiative into its overall strategy, the 9NEWS ad, and a number of bilingual ads and billboards.
Nita Gonzales, president and CEO of Escuela Tlatelolco, described her school’s 41-year partnership with Metro State. “Metro is walking their talk (in terms of supporting the Latino community), and I thank you for that.”
Other presentations included Associate Director of Admissions Cynthia Armendariz on the Excel Outreach and Excel Pre-Collegiate programs, Program Coordinator Renee Fajardo on the Journey Through Our Heritage program, Assessment and Testing Director Eric Dunker on his research concerning community-based change and Associate Vice President for Student Services Emilia Paul on retention programs. The meeting concluded with a reading from Enrique’s Journey, the story by Metro State’s 2011 Richard T. Castro Distinguished Visiting Professor Sonia Nozario, by Tony Garcia, director of Su Teatro and an affiliate faculty member in the Chicano/a Studies Department and Center for Urban Connections Interim Director Yolanda Ortega, who often performs with Su Teatro.
“There are so many programs, in all areas, it (the HSI goal) really has become an institution-wide initiative,” said Torres. “It’s a different institution than it was a few years ago. Just imagine what’s coming!”
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