UA seeking more Hispanic students
Arizona Daily Star

By Nicole Santa Cruz

Tucson, Arizona | Published:

In the office of University of Arizona President Robert Shelton is a watercolor painting by Yasmin Romero, a fifth-grader in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

No one in her family has gone to a university, but Shelton said he's trying to change that. He's invited Yasmin and her family to campus several times.

Shelton's efforts are emblematic of the UA's push to become a federally designated Hispanic- Serving Institution, which means it's trying to increase the number of Latino students to 25 percent of its 37,000 students. That could lead to increased federal funding.

Despite the booming Latino community, minority enrollment still falls short. Between 1997 and 2007, the UA's Latino population has increased by 1,050 students or 2 percent, to 5,431 students.

UA hasn't made a lot of progress with recruiting local Latinos, said Chuck Tatum, dean of the College of Humanities. "We need to do better," he said. "UA needs to make a concerted effort over the next eight years to recruit Hispanic students heavily in Pima County."

Minority recruitment is complex and involves every aspect of the university. Colleges, departments and students need to be collectively involved in order to effect change, Tatum said.

"We should already be a Hispanic-Serving Institution. Getting there because of population growth is a very passive, not proactive, way to do it," he said.

Keys to minority recruitment include K-12 partnerships and making financial resources available to low-income students. The UA has established the Office of Early Academic Outreach as well as Arizona Assurance, a financial and outreach program for the state's low-income students.

"Many families in our community are first-generation families, so going to college and the process of enrollment is really foreign," said Lori Tochihara, director of the outreach office.

But Socorro Carrizosa, director of Chicano/Hispano student affairs, said one of the slowest-growing areas is faculty diversity.

More diversity means more people to look at problems differently, said Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science. "Whenever there's a search for a faculty member for the College of Science, I make them look hard to find minorities."

It's also important for students to have faculty members they can relate to, he said.

From 1997 to 2007 the percentage of all minority UA employees has increased by 2 percent from 2,446 to 3,119.