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Iowa colleges reach out to Hispanics


Several universities and colleges in Iowa are ready to add Spanish-language pages to their Web sites and buying Spanish radio ads to help recruit more Hispanic students.

The number of Hispanic students enrolled in Iowa’s public schools increased from just over 4,000 in 1985 to more than 28,000 in 2005-06 a nearly 600 percent increase.

Des Moines Area Community College plans to air Spanish ads this summer on a Spanish radio station.

“We would be very willing to market in any language if there are individuals we can attract,” said Rob Denson, the college’s president. “We’re going to have a tremendous work force shortage worldwide. It’s very important we reach out to every individual who can or wants to work.”

At the University of Iowa, a committee is looking at putting admission, financial aid and housing information in Spanish on its Web site, school officials said.

Officials at the University of Northern Iowa said they expected to have a Spanish version of their Web site available by the end of the fall semester. The university also is looking at offering information in more languages, said Phil Patton, a registrar and interim director of admissions.

“Here you may be specially targeting parents who may not be as fluent as their son or daughters, and parents are a vital part of helping sons or daughters in the college entrance experience,” Patton said.

He said the university also will begin visits to schools that have a growing Hispanic population.

Iowa schools aren’t the only ones reaching out to Hispanic students. Michigan State University and Arizona State University are among the others that offer information in Spanish on their Web sites.

The effort to attract more Hispanic students is meeting opposition from some residents who are worried about access to education and illegal immigration.

Ron Harness, 50, of Ottumwa, said illegal immigrants don’t assimilate into society.

“You have to have a working knowledge of English,” Harness said. “They are not going to learn English. They are going to suck our school systems dry trying to run English as a Second Language.”

Some people who have moved to Iowa from Mexico also have expressed mixed reaction to recruiting Hispanics in Spanish.

Hector Barrera, 23, came to the United States four years ago and is taking English-language classes at a DMACC campus in Des Moines. He is preparing to take a test to get his high school equivalency diploma or take college-credit classes.

While not opposed to the Spanish-language recruiting, he thinks immigrants should learn English.

“I think it’s a good idea, but if you’re here, you should learn the language,” he said through a translator.

Not every Iowa college is incorporating Spanish into its recruitment of students.

“I hate to say we would never consider those sorts of things, because once a student arrives here, they need to have … a pretty solid understanding of the English language,” said Laura Linn, director of admissions at Drake University in Des Moines.

Information from: The Des Moines Register,

–Associated Press

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