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National Hispanic student college enrollment grows (video)

By Carolina Astrain
Sept. 21, 2013 at 4:21 a.m.

University of Houston-Victoria student Karen Borrego, 18, helps a co-worker get a student's Wi-Fi working on a laptop while working as a help desk assistant at Jaguar Hall on Thursday. Borrego was granted a HACEMOS Scholarship to attend the school. "My first impression was really great," the San Antonio native said of her decision to attend UHV.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Poder 2013

WHEN: 6-8 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Multi-Purpose Room, University of Houston-Victoria, 3007 N. Ben Wilson St.

COST: Free

University of Houston-Victoria freshman Karen Borrego, 18, last week stepped off the campus shuttle and walked toward the campus dining hall to eat before heading over to cheerleading tryouts.

The San Antonio native was worried her move to Victoria would be a bigger culture shock than she experienced.

She's the first in her family to attend college.

"They do a good job of planning activities outside of class to keep the students distracted," Borrego said. "But I still go home on the weekends."

Borrego is part of a rapidly growing Hispanic student population at university and college campuses across the country.

"I was considering going to a community college, but my counselor was like, 'No, you need to go to a university,'" said Borrego, who graduated from Southside High School as class salutatorian. "I visited a lot of campuses, including University of the Incarnate Word and Texas State University at San Marcos before making my final choice."

According to U.S. Census Bureau data, Hispanic student college enrollment nationwide has increased by 52.67 percent between 2008 and 2012.

UHV's Hispanic student enrollment increased by 89.83 percent over the same period.

Total enrollment experienced a slump between 2011 and 2012 nationwide, but the rising Hispanic enrollment trend persisted with a 447,000 student increase.

More young Hispanics are applying for college and universities as a way of fighting the "cholo" or Mexican gangster stereotype, Borrego said.

"Hispanics are stepping up to prove they can make a difference in the world," Borrego said. "I'm the first one to go to college in my family."

Last spring, the university was named a Hispanic-Serving Institution for having at least a 25 percent Hispanic student population.

Through the designation, UHV is now eligible for Title III and Title V funding from the federal government.

Hispanic-Serving Institutions received $220 million through the U.S. Department of Education in 2012.

"Funds may be used for activities such as scientific or laboratory equipment for teaching, construction or renovation of instructional facilities, faculty development, purchase of educational materials, academic tutoring or counseling programs, funds and administrative management, joint use of facilities, endowment funds, distance learning academic instruction, teacher education and student support services," Angela Hartmann, UHV research administrator, wrote in an emailed statement.

Stella M. Flores is an assistant professor of public policy and higher education at Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Before heading to Vanderbilt, Flores wrote on the role of the Hispanic-Serving Institution, or HSI, in U.S. higher education policy.

Her work focuses on the impact of state and federal policies on college access and completion for low-income and underrepresented populations.

"One of the biggest predictors of college success is high school academic preparation," Flores wrote in an email. "Attentive resources and support systems for underprepared students are likely to be helpful in ensuring students exit developmental education or remediation if this is part of their course requirements.

"Our research shows that all other things being equal, Hispanic students who attend an HSI are as likely to graduate from college as similar Hispanic students who attend a similarly ranked non-HSI," Flores wrote. "The issue, then, seems to be how colleges and universities can make up for the large scale phenomenon of underpreparation from many high schools."

Colleges and universities will be asked to be more creative, innovative and effective with what they have at their disposal, Flores wrote.

"Our student body has grown far younger and much more diverse in a little more than three years since we enrolled our first underclassmen in 2010," Phil Castille, UHV president, wrote in an email. "We're proud to be an Hispanic-Serving Institution, but we strive for all our students to become college graduates."

In fall 2012, 47 percent of UHV's new freshmen were of Hispanic descent. This year, 35 percent of students receiving Federal Pell Grants at UHV are Hispanic.

The university is revising its retention efforts for all students, Denee Thomas, UHV senior director of enrollment management and retention, wrote in an email.

"Students can participate in supplemental instruction and take part in a series of student success workshops including time management, note-taking skills and other topics," Thomas wrote.

Joining a student club or organization can help students from outside the area connect with the community, Thomas wrote.

A few paces away from UHV stands Victoria College.

Victoria College has received federal funding through its Hispanic-Serving Institution designation for the past several years, said Jennifer Yancey, vice president of college advancement and external affairs.

From 2011 to 2013, VC's Hispanic student enrollment rose by 6 percent, and this year, Hispanics made up 41.6 percent of its 4,401-member student population.

Josie Rivera, a member of the Victoria College Board of Trustees, credited a growing number of Hispanic role models to the growth of Hispanic student enrollment.

"Because they're seeing more role models out in the world, Hispanic students are feeling more confident about being able to go to college and get a good job," Rivera said.

This fall, Juan Diego Martinez, a UHV student activities coordinator and graduate student, hopes to revive activity within the university's Mexican-American Student Organization.

The organization was not active during the last school year because it lacked a faculty sponsor, Martinez said.

While the university does not recruit student club sponsors, if an interest is present within the student body for the revival of MASO, then the administration would help encourage its formation, Jay Lambert, UHV associate vice president for student affairs, wrote in an email.

Martinez and a few other students are planning a Hispanic Heritage Month event, Poder 2013, on Friday, in which UHV students will be awarded for past achievements.

"We're trying to put on more multicultural programs in response to our growing minority student population," Martinez said. "This will be our first one to put on."

As a new student on the UHV campus, Borrego said she hopes to get in touch with her Latino roots through student groups and organizations.

"My ancestors had to come across the border so they could have a better life," Borrego said. "I want to honor their memory by remaining humble and taking advantage of the opportunities at hand."

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