Linda Jackson, the director of university relations for Huston-Tillotson University in Austin, Texas, an institution that has seen 14 years of consecutive enrollment growth, says 19 percent of the approximately 1,030 students in 2010 were Latino, compared to 10 percent in 2004. She says Latino enrollment has hovered at around 19 percent since 2010.
Jackson attributes the significant number of Latinos to several factors, including Texas’ large Latino population and the university’s attractive array of academic offerings. She says the university has an enrollment strategy in place aimed at targeting numerous groups, including working adults, traditional African American students, and Latinos.
At Paul Quinn College in Dallas, President Michael Sorrell says 20 percent of the incoming students this year are Latinos, up from about 15 percent last year. He says approximately 12 percent of the student body is Latino.
Sorrell, who’s been president for eight years, says that, in addition to Texas, the students come from many other locales around the country, including Detroit, Chicago, New York, and California.
He insists that Paul Quinn doesn’t recruit students based on race or ethnicity, but on whether they are a fit for the college’s values, which include placing the team above the individual.
“I always found it distasteful when schools recruited me because I’m black,” says Sorrell, a Duke University-trained attorney. “I don’t want to be your diversity experience. To me, there’s a higher level of sincerity when people view me as more than just a skin color.”
That said, his senior recruiter, a graduate of the college, is Latina. “She wasn’t hired for any reason other than the fact that she’s good,” he says.
Sorrell adds that Paul Quinn entices students for other reasons, including the fact that the students receive a vigorous liberal-arts education, earn professional work experience in their last two years, and typically graduate with no more than $10,000 in debt.
Experts say that it’s too early to say how the influx of Latinos is transforming the culture of HBCUs, but they say they’ve been quick to notice changes such as the emergence of Latino fraternities and sororities.
Bautista says that, at Prairie View A&M, he’s seen a heightened participation in student life by Latinos. He says several Latinos hold student leadership positions. One pledged the historically black sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha. Another, a student-athlete, was crowned Miss Puerto Rico and will be representing the commonwealth in the Miss America pageant. Many Latino cultural events, such as Day of the Dead, a Mexican festival that honors ancestors, now dot the student life calendar.
Sorrell says that, at Paul Quinn College, administrators have worked to mesh the cultures. An academic year kick-off event early in August, for example, featured dishes from both African American and Latino cultures.