tampabay.com

Hispanic college enrollment booming

By SHANNON COLAVECCHIO-VAN SICKLER
Published August 9, 2006


Fifteen years ago, the University of Central Florida didn’t have a single Latino sorority or fraternity. Today, with Hispanic student enrollment more than quadruple what it was in 1990, there are four.

“You can definitely tell that the school is trying to welcome Hispanic students,” said 20-year-old Sasha Perez-Loor, vice president of recruitment and expansion for UCF’s Diversified Greek Council and a member of UCF’s first Latina sorority.

UCF now has 5,500 Hispanic students — the second-highest total in Florida. But the University of Florida and the University of South Florida aren’t far behind.

Hispanic enrollment in Florida’s 11 universities is nearly triple what it was in 1990, going from less than 17,000 to 46,520 last fall, according to the latest figures. Hispanic students now represent 16.2 percent of overall enrollment in Florida universities — nearly mirroring the state’s resident Hispanic population of 19 percent.

Administrators say the changes prove the effectiveness of their aggressive recruiting efforts, from bilingual financial aid packets to summer campus tours for Hispanic middle school students.

“The growth has been very intentional,” said Zina Evans, UF’s admissions director and assistant provost.

This spring, legislators set aside $120-million for financial aid and $6.5-million in scholarships for first-generation college students. University system Chancellor Mark Rosenberg said this will strengthen minority recruiting.

Statistics show that graduation and retention rates are lower among minority students than among white students.

Often it is because the students are the first in their family to attend college and they face financial limitations that require juggling classes with jobs, Rosenberg said.

“We have to focus not just on getting them in but on keeping them in and getting them through,” he said.

USF’s Hispanic enrollment of roughly 4,500 represents an almost 150 percent increase from 1990, and administrators expect this fall’s numbers to be even higher.

For the past year, officials have recruited heavily from high schools with large populations of minority students who are the first in their families to go to college.

“We are a very big community on campus,” said USF student Jeanette Garcia of Fort Lauderdale, incoming president of the Latin American Student Association.