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Big resort-conference center planned for San Marcos


www.statesman.com

Project could include golf course and upscale housing developments

American-Statesman (06/03/2004)
By R. Michelle Breyer and Jason Embry

SAN MARCOS -- One in four students at Texas State University-San Marcos will be Hispanic if a recruiting plan that school officials are crafting.

Hispanics now make up 18 percent of the 26,300 students at the burgeoning university. The ratio has hovered there for the better part of the decade, although the number of Hispanic students has increased each year. The magazine Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education last year ranked the school 18th nationally in awarding undergraduate degrees to Hispanics. Now, Texas State President Denise Trauth has set her sights on boosting the Hispanic share of the student body to 25 percent. The U.S. Department of Education deems schools that cross that threshold “Hispanic-serving institutions” and allows them to complete for grant money that would be off-limits otherwise.

Trauth said the school will not consider race in admission decisions but rather will count on aggressive recruiting.

“ I’m not naïve about how different it would be, especially at an institution whose overall enrollment is growing,” Trauth said. “But Texas needs Texas State University to fulfill this niche, to be the large, multifaceted university that we are and to be a Hispanic-serving institution.”

Texas State would be the largest four-year Hispanic-serving institution in the state if Trauth’s plan succeeds. The federal guidelines also say that to get the designation, at least 50 percent of Hispanic students should come from low-income households.

The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board in October 2000 called for colleges to boost the enrollment of Texans in higher education by over 500,000 over 15 years, and it said 341,000 of the additional students should be Hispanic. State education officials want the bulk of the growth to come from the Hispanic community because of it’s growing share of the state’s overall population and it’s historically low representation on campus. Trauth would not put a timeline on Texas State’s Hispanic goal, and it doesn’t yet have a price tag. She said the push is one piece of a diversity agenda she hopes to unveil in May as part of a strategic plan for the school’s future.

Admissions Director Christie Kangas said she and her staff will focus recruiting efforts on high schools in the state with significant numbers of Hispanic students. Also, the university will work with heavily Hispanic community colleges to make sure students know which classes they need to transfer to Texas State.

Over the past few years, the school has stationed full-time recruiters in Houston and Weslaco, in the Rio Grande Valley, an effort that Kangas expecs will make inroads with Hispanic families. Still, she said, the Hispanic count at Texas State isn’t likely to reach 25 percent for at least five years.

“ You have to get in and lay a lot of groundwork and build on that foundation,” she said.

Danielle Alvarado graduated from an almost exclusively Hispanic high school in San Antonio in 2000. She said only about a fourth of her classmates went on the college, and most of them went to schools in San Antonio.

“ People wanted to get out and make 20 grand instead of going to school for four years so they could get out and make 30 grand or 40 grand,” said Alvarado,22,a senior at Texas State.
Last fall her sorority was host to about 130 Hispanic girls from high schools in San Antonio and San Marcos and talked to them about applying to college and getting scholarship help. Many seemed overwhelmed.

“ They basically tell me that they don’t think they can do it, that they are not smart and that they don’t have the money,” Alvarado said.

High school students who would be first in their families to attend college are often intimidated by costs and do not know how to get grants and loans, said Celia Rodriguez, a high school guidance program specialist for the Austin school district. Rodriguez said many Hispanic families are unaware of a bill passed in the 2001 Legislature that allows undocumented residents who graduated from Texas high schools to pay in-state tuition.

Mariana Coronado, a junior at Texas State, said the school will need to win over many Hispanic parents who might not expect their children to go to college.

“ Most of the students in my culture aren’t expected to go to college,” said Coronado, 22. “They make a big deal about graduating from high school.”

The Hispanic initiatives at Texas State drew criticism from members of the student government, who wondered whether the school would lower its standards to meet the goal. Trauth denied that and said those students need to realize that giving more Texans access to college benefits society.

“ Often people, when you talk about diversity, think you’re talking about quota systems, and we’re not,” she said.

The school does not award admission points for race, but admission counselors will consider whether students who are on the bubble would be the first in their families to attend college or come from a low-income school districts, Truath said.

The Education Department lists 48 Hispanic-serving institutions in Texas. Many are two-year schools, an none of the four-year schools is as large as Texas State. The University of Texas at San Antonio brings in about $9 million a year in grants because it is deemed Hispanic-serving, said Noe Saldana, the school’s research director.

“ You get money for equipment; you get money for training; you get money for research,” Saldana said.