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Black Colleges Diversifying By Recruiting More Hispanics


Squeezed by stiff competition for their traditional students, historically Black colleges are making a push to recruit Hispanics.

While the country’s Hispanic population is booming, the number of Blacks is growing at a much slower rate and other colleges are doing more to attract them. Black colleges that want to shore up enrollment numbers are revising recruitment strategies to include more members of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing minority.

HBCUs are hiring Hispanic recruiters, distributing brochures featuring Hispanic students and establishing special scholarships for Hispanics. At the historically Black Texas Southern University in Houston, the school has started five Hispanic student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, to help make the campus more inviting.

“I tell them ‘There’s a place for you and a need for Latinos to be present on [historically Black] campuses,” says Nelson Santiago, a recruiter for Howard University in Washington, D.C. A native of Puerto Rico, Santiago talks to students about his experiences as a student at Howard, where he graduated in 2001.

Recruiters like Santiago and others from schools including the all-male Morehouse College in Atlanta are visiting predominantly Hispanic high schools and setting up booths at college fairs geared toward Hispanic students. Morehouse sends recruiters to high schools in South Florida, New York, East Texas and Los Angeles areas with large Hispanic populations.

“Considering Latinos and African-Americans share a lot of history together that they don’t realize, I think it’s a good idea,” says John Miranda, of Silver Spring, Md., one of 15 Hispanics enrolled at the 2,800-student Morehouse.

Miranda, the 21-year-old son of Brazilian immigrants, says he picked Morehouse because he was offered a full scholarship by an Atlanta foundation that promotes the education of Hispanics.

Morehouse’s goal is for at least 5 percent of its student body to be made up of Hispanics within five years. If its current overall enrollment holds steady, the school will need 125 more Hispanic students by 2011 to reach that goal.

While the idea has been greeted with open arms by the college’s administrators, some students and alumni say they are mixed about actively recruiting Hispanics to historically Black colleges.

“I do have concerns,” says Earl Nero, a retired Atlanta businessman who graduated from Morehouse in 1974. “Since the college has determined they want to stay the same size they are, that would take away space from qualified African-American students.”

But having other minorities attending a historically Black college will help them get “a real life view about what Black people are all about,” Nero adds.

Student James Travis, who is Black, says having students of other races on a historically Black campus bothers him “a little bit” because it challenges the college’s mission.

“It’s supposed to maintain the historically Black tradition,” says the 21-year-old student from the Atlanta suburb of College Park. “I’ll have to see how it goes before I see if I want to change the situation or not.”

Still, educators say the nation’s two largest minority groups are a natural fit on a college campus.

“They are both underserved communities when it comes to higher education,” says Michael Lomax, president and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. “We have got to educate them so that we can have a competitive work force in the 21st century.”

The number of Hispanic students attending historically Black colleges increased more than 60 percent from 1994 to 2004, while the number of Black students grew by 35 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

Hispanics have surpassed Blacks as the nation’s largest minority. The number of Hispanics in the United States grew by nearly 60 percent in the 1990s, while the number of Blacks only grew by about 15 percent.

At the same time, the competition for Black students has increased as public colleges nationwide try to improve diversity by recruiting more minorities. Some state higher education systems, especially in the South, also have been forced by federal courts to meet specific Black recruitment goals under desegregation lawsuits still lingering from the 1960s.

“All colleges want to have a presence of African-American male students on their campus. It makes the competition very tough,” says Sterling Hudson, dean of admissions and records at Morehouse.

Five years ago, Texas Southern hired a Hispanic recruiter and began producing recruitment materials targeting Hispanics. Since then, Hispanic student enrollment has grown from 316 to almost 550. Right now, Hispanics make up about 5 percent of the 11,000-student body.

“We have the advantage as a HBCU to cater to the minority small classroom, small family-type environment,” says Hasan Jamil, assistant vice president for enrollment services.

Howard has about 170 Hispanic out of 11,500 students after several years of focused recruiting. Interim admissions director Linda Sanders-Hawkins says with the country’s growing Hispanic population, recruiting is not as tough as it once was.

Miranda says it has not bothered him being on a majority Black campus.

“Since I’ve been at Morehouse, I’ve gotten a different perspective on a lot of things,” Miranda says, referring to Black history. “I learned a lot that was left out of the schooling I got.”

— Associated Press


Reader comments on this story:

There are currently 2 reader comments on this story.

“an underserved market”
I have been saying for years in graduate papers for my Masters studies that the HBCUs should be focused on the Hispanic market.  The reason is it is an underserved market.  The HBCUs could have been taking advantage to serve this population and build coalition with this group.  It is an indication that we are not being proactive in studying demographic information for as population, financese, etc.  My comments are not just for financial reasons.  We want to promote quality to all of our customers.  If we don’t they certainly will not come back. 

Now, that we see the trend of loosing some of our numbers to other competitors we are reacting.  But, we are late.  We could have been the trend setters. 

     I can understand that the HBCUs would like to preserve tradition and I am for history and traditions, too.  I feel that the school’s history can be preserved while targeting and attracting new markets to serve.  This is a part of the schools mission, too, “To serve it community which is changing.”  It is about time and I am glad that we are now recruiting a diverse student pool.  In closing we should not exclude any group and we need to focus on all students to provide them with higher education opportunities no matter their race, White, Asian, Hispanic or Black Americans.
-Jackie Porter

“a takeover”
It saddens me to hear that Black colleges are beefing up recruitment efforts for Hispanics and not for Blacks. I believe the government is behind this, offering federal funds for what will ultimately be a takeover. There is no middle ground and unlike the propaganda espoused int he article, Blacks and Hispanics have little in common. Hispanics don’t like blacks, in fact they hate blacks and kill them at will in CA prisons and on CA streets. This has been going on for more than a decade. No one seems to care. In the same day I received this news, my email also contained a Los Angeles times article entitled: 4 Los Angeles Latino Gang Members Convicted of Anti-Black Conspiracy. The jury finds that the defendants terrorized African Americans to try to drive them from the Highland Park neighborhood. The compendium of crimes laid out against the gang members blended the most chilling aspects of old-time Deep South bigotry with a modern interracial rancor that has developed — to some extent — in struggling pockets of urban Los Angeles.

     But unlike other racial gang strife in the city, the Avenues’ violence was deliberately aimed at African Americans with no gang affiliations, including women and children. The gang scrawled threats and racial epithets in graffiti on walls. Among crimes committed by the defendants from 1995 to 2001, according to testimony, were shooting a 15-year-old boy riding a bike; hitting a jogger in the head with a pistol; drawing outlines of human bodies in chalk on a family’s driveway, along with a racial slur; and knocking a woman off her bike, threatening her husband with a box cutter, and saying, “You niggers have been here long enough.One night in April 1999, the defendants were riding in a van and came upon a black man, Kenneth Wilson, parking his Cadillac. When Martinez asked if anyone wanted to kill a black man, three of them jumped out, ran up to Wilson’s windows and opened fire, witnesses said. A shot to the head killed him before the car had even rolled to a stop.

     Saldana bragged later that he just wanted to test out his new 9-millimeter Ruger.

Another black man, Christopher Bowser, was harassed and beaten up by the defendants for years. In December 2000, he filed a police report saying Martinez had assaulted and robbed him at a bus stop near his house. A week later, Bowser was shot to death at the same bus stop on Figueroa Street.

    Five days later, Avila told a fellow gang member, in a taped phone call from jail, that he and Martinez had been beating up mayates for weeks, using a Spanish-language epithet for blacks. After mentioning Bowser, he added, “That fool is gone.” Avila was convicted in state court of the murder.I left LA and feared for my life as a black woman. Speaking to blacks about this has been fruitless. I even had a woman tell me, when I advocated praying for the blacks left behind in LA, that we should pray for the mexicans who killed these innocent souls, but not for the black families of those killed. Which brings up my final point. With a black population of over 38 million who spent and expendable 761 billion after taxes last year, there should be plenty of recruitees for the so-called desparate admissions board. Black people always look outside for those who hate them to give affimation. At the same time they treat their own as strangers. It’s the beginning of the end because hispanics don’t share, they take over. That includes neighborhoods, hospitals, (MLK in LA), and now it will include the colleges erected from toil and racism found existent in the hispanic community. The only thing blacks and hispanics have in common is they are not white BUT hispanics are classified as such. Wake up, stop the self hatred, go to black colleges and send your children.

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