The trend is clear: In the past five years, Hispanic enrollment at the College of Southern Nevada has climbed more than 50 percent.
Soon, Hispanics could make up more than a quarter of all the college’s students. That would be significant, as it probably would qualify the state’s largest higher education institution as a federally designated Hispanic-Serving Institution.
Such a designation would make the college eligible for a host of federal aid, including funding for research, new buildings, faculty development, equipment and community outreach.
Official enrollment numbers for this year are expected out this week, maybe as early as today. Officials said that if the college does not reach the 25 percent mark this year, it probably will soon. Between 2004 and 2008, Hispanic enrollment climbed from 6,000 at CSN to more than 9,000, a jump from 17 percent to 22 percent of overall enrollment.
Larry Mason, the interim vice president for diversity and cultural affairs, said he expects Hispanic enrollment to be about 23 to 24 percent this year. College officials estimate overall enrollment at CSN will climb to nearly 44,000, an increase of about 6 percent over last year.
"It’s a good sign," Mason said of the Hispanic increase. "It will allow us to look at the possibility of it happening soon. That will give so much to the college, not only Hispanic students, but to all students."
The federal designation was created in 1992 to combat what Congress saw as the low college enrollment of Hispanics.
Since then, annual funding has increased from just a few million dollars to $93 million this year, according to the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, an advocacy group.
Norma Zamora, the group’s membership services coordinator, said Hispanic enrollment is increasing nationwide, as is the nation’s Hispanic population.
The group has gone from 18 member institutions at its start in 1986 to more than 400 today, she said.
The trend is clearly evident on College of Southern Nevada’s campuses, said Yarleny Roa-Dugan, who leads CSN’s Latino Student Alliance.
She said there are times in class when she’ll look around and realize that nearly half the students are Hispanic.
"We have people from everywhere in Latin America, everywhere in the world," Roa-Dugan said.
Roa-Dugan, 21, moved to the United States with her family from Colombia when she was 16. She graduated from Bonanza High School and started at CSN in 2006 to work on her nursing degree.
She is a full-time mother going to school part time. She hopes to graduate in 2011 and pursue a bachelor’s degree at Nevada State College.
Roa-Dugan said there is a feeling at CSN that Hispanics are an emerging force. She joined the student group, because she wanted to be part of something bigger. As its president, she hopes to bring the disparate subgroups together. Colombia, after all, is a very different place from Mexico, which is very different from Cuba.
The student group also helps students out with financial aid and other potentially confusing issues by hosting seminars and sponsoring a small scholarship.
She is excited that CSN could soon become an official Hispanic-Serving Institution.
Mason said college officials are preparing data in anticipation of applying for the status in the next year or two. He noted that Clark County’s Hispanic population is growing, standing at 28 percent, according to the most recent U.S. Census Bureau figures.
And the Clark County School District, the largest source of CSN’s students, has a Hispanic population of more than 40 percent.
As a result, Mason said, CSN’s Hispanic enrollment is likely to keep growing. "We have to be prepared for that."
Contact reporter Richard Lake at rlake @reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0307.CSN HISPANIC ENROLLMENT
2004 – 17.4 percent
2005 – 17.9 percent
2006 – 20.2 percent
2007 – 20.8 percent
2008 – 22.5 percent