Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Latino community college leaders are optimistic about fall enrollment

As students head back to school for the fall, administrators at Latino serving community colleges across the nation say they are more optimistic about student enrollment numbers specially compared to last year at the height of the pandemic.

William Serrata, president of El Paso Community College in Texas said, “We’re showing right now that we’re about 13% ahead of last fall, and I’m real pleased to see that we could be potentially passing last year’s enrollment numbers. We’re slowly but surely getting there, and that to me shows that we are heading in the right direction. Although, I don’t expect to fully reach that until the Delta variant is under control.”

According to Latino educators, the Delta variant adds uncertainty, but Antonio Flores, President and CEO of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU) sees something different. “Institutions are learning continuously how to better cope with the pandemic, and the investment the federal government has made in health funds to higher education and to students, all that accounts for better readiness for institutions and students in the fall,” he said.

Félix Matos Rodríguez, chancellor of the City University of New York, is cautiously optimistic about fall semester enrollment. CUNY is the largest urban higher education system in the country, which enrolls more than 275,000 students in 25 campuses throughout New York City, including seven community colleges. Close to a third of the students are Latinos and 40% of them come from low-income households.

As with other institutions, CUNY is offering a more flexible schedule than before the pandemic, with about 45% of the courses available in person and the rest online. In addition to federal funds it received, CUNY raised $10 million this year for student grants specially to help those who don’t qualify for federal financial aid such as undocumented students. They also used federal stimulus funds to forgive up to $125 million in student debt.

“We assign them peer tutors from the CUNY schools that they can be in touch with and help them transition and meet with them and start classes, and for the CUNY student, it’s a paid internship. The data shows that Latino and African Americans, particularly male, are the demographic that seems to be disconnecting more with college, and our marketing campaign has been going on social media sites, communication sites, radio to connect with them — if they’re a student, to bring them back, and if they’re new, to recruit them. We’re pulling all the stops to come apply and stay,” Matos Rodríguez said.