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A First, More Than Half of University of New Mexico Freshmen Are Minorities

A First, More Than Half of University of New Mexico Freshmen Are Minorities

Minority students make up just over half of new freshmen at the University of New Mexico (UNM) for the first time in the school’s history.

UNM enrolled a record 3,086 freshmen this fall. That includes 1,550 Hispanics, American Indians and other ethnic minorities.

Officials say the steady growth of minority enrollment is no accident and didn’t happen overnight.

“When it comes to minority recruitment, we have accomplished what other universities are still trying to figure out,” said Dr. Eliseo “Cheo” Torres, vice president for student affairs.

Torres said he regularly fields calls from his counterparts at other universities seeking tips on minority recruitment.

On a recent morning at UNM, buses dropped off 800 American Indian high school students from Shiprock, Zuni, Gallup, To’hajiilee and elsewhere. They were visiting as part of American Indian Student Day.

The event was sponsored by American Indian Student Services, one of several ethnic centers intended to help minority students succeed.

UNM holds similar events for other groups. Last month, Hispano Student Day attracted 3,000 students and African American Student Day drew 400.

University recruiters also travel statewide to attract students.

“There are 178 high schools in New Mexico,” said Terry Babbitt, director of recruitment services. “We visit every one of them.”

New Mexico’s large minority population and UNM’s relaxed admission standards are other factors contributing to the large minority enrollment, said Dr. Ricardo Maestas, associate vice president for student services.

Overall, minority students make up 47.5 percent of 18,027 undergraduates this fall — up from 45 percent in fall 2001.

As for student retention, 74 percent of Hispanic freshmen who enrolled last fall returned this year. That’s just short of the 76.3 percent rate for White non-Hispanics.

For other groups, 83 percent of Asians, 78 percent of Blacks and 63 percent of American Indians who were freshmen last fall re-enrolled this year.

—Associated Press

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