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More Hispanics knocking at the college door

Associated Press (01/30/2004)

With Hispanics graduating from high school in numbers that will keep increasing for years, the head of a higher education group that released a new report on the trend says colleges need to step up efforts to accommodate the nation’s largest minority.

The Western Interstate Commis-sion for Higher Education projects that Hispanics will account for 21 percent of the country’s public high school graduates in 2008, up from 17 percent in 2002.

The commission found that nearly 5 million Hispanics were enrolled in the country’s public elementary and high schools in 1993-94.

And by the 2007-08 school year, it projects that Latino public school enrollment will be about 9 million.

T. Jaime Chahin, a scholar at the Tomas Rivera Center at Trinity University in San Antonio and a professor at Texas State University - San Marcos, said that some schools, especially in the Southwest, are making progress integrating Hispanic culture into campus life.

But he said schools across the country need to do a better job of recruiting and retaining Latino faculty members who can serve as role models for Hispanic undergraduates.

The process of pushing Hispanics toward college degrees needs to begin at the elementary school level, he added.

Hispanics should feel “that college is not a novelty but is something that is expected, even for first-generation students who have never been exposed to these kinds of opportunities,” said Chahin.

“ In general, colleges are still not prepared,” said David Longanecker, executive director of the interstate commission.

“ We know there is a relationship between race and income and academic preparedness,” Longanecker said. “But we don’t have the support services in place to enhance the success that we need.”

Using data compiled from the nation’s leading test-makers, the U.S. census and other statistical sources, the WICHE study projects a significant regional shift in the school-age population to the South and West that follows general population trends.