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United Methodist Church Brings HBCU Council Together to Recruit More Hispanics

Eleven historically Black colleges and universities affiliated with the United Methodist Church are boosting their efforts to recruit students from the burgeoning Hispanic population.

The consortium of HBCU leaders, known as The Council on Presidents, discussed their strategy late last month at a two-day workshop called “Forging Bold New Paths: Offering Welcome and Ministry to Hispanic-Latino Students at Black Fund Schools.” Discussing everything from Hispanic cultural values to immigration issues, the presidents came together in Nashville, Tenn. to discuss how best to reach Hispanic students and how to meet their needs once they come to campus.

“It was a recognition of the changing population and our need to respond to that,” says Dr. Larry Earvin, council president and president of Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas.

The Rev. Jerome King Del Pino of the UMC’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry called the meeting, saying the presidents must pay attention to “shifting demographic needs.”

Dr. Cynthia Bond Hopson, assistant general secretary of Black College Fund and Ethnic Concerns, says it was necessary to come up with a strategic plan to redefine the mission of the schools.

“We welcome a population that continues to be underserved,” Bond Hopson says. “We are not competing with HSIs… we are addressing a market that isn’t going to college at all.”

In order to do that, UMC brought in marketing experts and Hispanic community leaders to bring more awareness about the population. For example, the presidents were told one-third of Hispanics livings in the United States are under 18 years old, and Mexicans are the youngest demographic of that age group.

At the meeting came the realization that HBCUs will run into cost barriers, says Earvin and other presidents. Even as they welcome their new students, colleges will have to organize resources for them in order to pay for support services or hire new staff members. “These challenges could be a source of tension,” says Earvin.

HBCUs perform miracles on a shoestring budget, adds Hopson Bond. “Economic constraints will have to be addressed. And yes, we will be discussing it again and looking at how to move forward in relation to who we are  There is evidence that the Hispanic population is growing at HBCUs, adds Earvin, especially at Huston-Tillotson University where the Hispanic population went up to 13 percent in 2005, up from 7 percent in 2002.

The jump in Hispanic enrollment has been happening for a few years in Texas, according to John Moder, the chief operating officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU). In fact, a majority of the growing Hispanic population in the country is in the southeast where many of the HBCUs are located, he says.

“For Hispanic students, location and costs are two important factors and if there is an HBCU where they are living, then it will be attractive,” Moder says.

Dr. Haywood L. Strickland, a council member and president of Wiley College in Marshall, Texas, says Hispanics make up 5 percent of the students at his institution, and that “we’re always open to students of all races and nationalities.”

“But the main purpose [of the workshop] is one of intentionality where we have to aggressively pursue Hispanic students. It is part of our mission.”

—      By Shilpa Banerji


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