Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Surging in the Southeast: North Carolina HBCUs Expected to Play Significant Role in Facilitating College Access for the Increasing Latino Population in the Region

Magazine article Black Issues in Higher Education

Surging in the Southeast: North Carolina HBCUs Expected to Play Significant Role in Facilitating College Access for the Increasing Latino Population in the Region

Article excerpt

Given the surging growth in the U.S. Latino population in recent years, nowhere have those increases been occurring faster than in the southeast. North Carolina, Arkansas and Georgia, for example, have seen population increases between 300 and 400 percent since the early 1990s. Naturally, Latino community leaders and state officials have been eager to grow Latino enrollment in higher education--a task complicated by the reality that Latinos are struggling with a high public school dropout rate, estimated at 47 percent in North Carolina, and attend college at lower percentages than Whites and Blacks.

In North Carolina, the task to increase and support Latino college enrollment is one shared by a host of institutions and agencies, including historically Black colleges and universities. Among the 16 public colleges in the state, historically Black Fayetteville State University (FSU) had the highest share of Latino students, 4 percent, during the 2003-2004 academic year, according to state officials. This year's numbers have Latino enrollment at 4.1 percent.

There's an expectation that HBCUs, such as FSU, will play a role as great as that of the majority White colleges and universities in facilitating Latino college enrollment in North Carolina colleges and universities, according to state officials.

"We are making some intense efforts to strengthen our support of Hispanic students," says Dr. Jon Young, the associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at Fayetteville State.

Dr. Robert Kanoy, associate vice president for academic affairs for the University of North Carolina system, explains that the public universities are increasing the diversity of their campuses with Latino student outreach efforts. He says it's imperative that all the schools become proficient in developing multi-cultural environments because demographic projections show that Latinos will surpass Blacks in the state's college-age population around 2018 and that student growth will continue to surge among Latinos while the growth numbers of Black and White students will level off after 2014.

"The HBCUs will have a smaller pool of students to compete for if they don't become more diverse," Kanoy says.

In North Carolina, Latinos made up 1.7 percent of the 183,000 students at the state's public universities in 2003-2004. Officials say they are the fastest-growing segment of the student body. Fayetteville Slam, which has around 5,400 students, recorded a 42 percent Latino student growth jump between 1998 and 2004.

Young says that FSU has attracted Latino students largely because Fayetteville is located in a region heavily populated with Mexican immigrants. He attributes the 4 percent rate of Hispanic enrollment to the accessibility of FSU to a large Latino population and to outreach efforts by the university. The school is more diverse than most HBCUs with a student population that is 25 percent non-Black, Young notes. White students have become roughly 17 percent of FSU's population in recent years. The school draws upon a pool of commuting students as well as people affiliated with Fort Bragg, a nearby U.S. Army base.

This past summer, the FSU enrollment management office hired an admissions counselor who specializes in Latino student and community outreach. The school is also translating its admissions literature into Spanish-language documents, according to Young.

"We expect that prospective students already read and write English so the Spanish-language documents will help their families understand our institution," Young says.

Marco Zarate, the president of the North Carolina Society of Hispanic Professionals (NCSHP), says the public four-year colleges and the community colleges in North Carolina have shown responsiveness to the plight of Latino residents in the state. He notes that the HBCU community in North Carolina has been welcoming to Latino students. …

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