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UI sees a surge in Latino student population

BY REBECCA MORIN | NOVEMBER 15, 2013 5:00 AM

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As the Latino population is expanding throughout the nation, the University of Iowa is mirroring that growth.

In 2008, slightly more than 850 Latino students were enrolled at the UI — that number has grown to approximately 1,600 over the last five years. Latino students are also the leading domestic minority group enrolled at the UI.

Emil Rinderspacher, associate director of UI Admissions, said the growth of minority students is reflective of Iowa’s growing Latino population. According to the State Data Center of Iowa, the estimated Latino population as of July 2012 was 162,894, 5.3 percent of the population.

“A lot of the growth is driven by demographics,” Riderspacher said. “Hispanic families tend to be younger and larger, the influx of new people has certainly hit the school districts, and I think that’s the reason to continue to grow minority recruitment.”

John Moder, senior vice president and chief operating officer for Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, said the Latino population is one of the fastest growing in the nation and the trend of more Latino students at universities and colleges is becoming more common in many states.

“This is being replicated in a lot of parts of the country,” Moder said. “While traditionally they congregated in the Southwestern parts of the country, you see Hispanic population growing in states we don’t really think [would]; most are in the Deep South or even states in the Midwest.”

The UI employs a number of strategies when recruiting minority students, including those who live outside of Iowa, Rinderspacher said.

“The university has been working over the past 10 years and has a person in charge of minority recruitment,” he said. “We do recruitment in Texas and in the Valley. We promote a combination of things such as scholarships — we’ve created Advantage Iowa, and we have upward bound programs.”

With the large Latino population not only growing in Iowa but throughout the country, Omar Valerio-Jimenez, an associate professor of history, called on UI officials to cater more to Latino culture and history.

“I think one of the ways the UI can do more for students and for the workplace is to hire more professors who study Latinos and do research on Latinos,” Valerio-Jimenez said. “Latino populations are set to increase, and there are a number of pressing issues currently in politics; a Latino Studies program can only help and prepare students regardless of their background.”

Although enrollment numbers have increased, Alejandra Sandoval, the president of Association of Latinos Moving Ahead, is skeptical on what those numbers really mean, and if the university is retaining the students they are recruiting.

“I’m shocked we’re the highest minority group,” the UI junior said. “I feel like a lot more still needs to be done, and the university needs to do a better job retaining them.”

However, one student feels optimistic about the growth.

“I guess I was really excited as a first-generation student,” UI freshman Celeste Charchalac said. “We should be proud because not many people will have the opportunity to get a higher education, and it’s good that more people are coming to get an education.”


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