Hispanic enrollment up at Nevada colleges

The College of Southern Nevada has hit a significant benchmark that will allow it to apply for the federal designation of Hispanic-Serving Institution next fall.

Other Nevada higher education institutions also saw gains in Hispanic enrollments this fall, according to preliminary numbers. That boost could help those schools become Hispanic-Serving Institutions too.

“I think that as a college, we have a reason to celebrate,” said Clarissa Cota, chairwoman of the College of Southern Nevada’s Hispanic-Serving Institution task force.

CSN is among several two- and four-year colleges in Nevada emerging as Hispanic-Serving Institutions. To get the full designation from the U.S. Department of Education, schools need to reach and maintain an enrollment that is 25 percent Hispanic.

That status lets colleges compete for additional federal funding.

In recent years, CSN had been close to meeting that requirement. Last December, CSN’s Hispanic enrollment was at 24.3 percent, but 8 percent of the students at the college had not declared their ethnicity, Cota said.

The school began a campaign to try to get students to update their personal information, which helped bring the percentage up to 25.07 percent for fall 2012, Cota said. Colleges need to use data from the two prior years when applying for the designation.

CSN still has about 600 students who haven’t updated their personal information, which could cause the number to dip below the 25 percent for the two-year period, Cota said. However, officials remain optimistic and hope the percentage will only fluctuate slightly.

“As an institution we need to be ready and we are preparing ourselves for this,” she said. “We have everything in line to apply with the U.S. Department of Education.”

CSN’s preliminary Hispanic enrollment for fall 2013 is at 25.92 percent, according to Nevada System of Higher Education calculations.

Other colleges in the state are also well on their way to achieving Hispanic-Serving Institution status. University of Nevada, Reno officials said the college saw a significant increase in preliminary fall Hispanic enrollment numbers, although exact figures weren’t available. Last fall, UNR’s Hispanic enrollment was 13.3 percent.

On Tuesday, UNR’s College Life 101 program was one of 18 programs nationwide recognized by Excelencia in Education, a national nonprofit, said Reg Chen- Stewart, UNR’s chief diversity officer. The program is designed to create and support greater cultural diversity.

For more than a decade, the university has been committed to serving Hispanic students. Stewart said achieving Hispanic-Serving Institution status will help UNR better serve that student group.

“Our responsibility is to provide programs so that our students get in and graduate,” he said Tuesday from Washington, D.C., where he was attending an event recognizing UNR’s program for accelerating Latino student success.

Nevada State College also continues to see growth in its Hispanic student population, which is at 22 percent this fall, according to preliminary numbers. That’s up from 20 percent last fall.

As of fall 2013, 21 percent of UNLV’s students identified themselves as Hispanic, according to Afsha Bawany, UNLV spokeswoman.

However, the numbers could still change as students may decide to drop classes, leave the university or take a break from school.

Official enrollment numbers are reported to the Nevada System of Higher Education at the end of the semester.

Reporter Yesenia Amaro can be reached at (702) 383-0440, or yamaro@reviewjournal.com.