State census data not reflected in student body

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Census data released last week shows dramatic growth in Hispanic and Asian populations in Texas, but state trends do not necessarily reflect the demographics of UT students.

According to the 2010 Census, 37.6 percent — about 9.5 million — of Texans have Hispanic or Latino origin, while only 19.4 percent — nearly 7,500 — of UT undergraduate students are Hispanic.

“When the data came out for racial and ethnic change last week, it showed dramatic diversification of the Texas population,” said Steve Murdock, former census director and Rice University sociology professor. “Enrollment levels [for minorities] are not where they should be. Non-Anglo populations have fewer resources and as a result they are less likely to go to college. It’s one of the major challenges for Texas and one of the most important things for us to do.”

Jacqueline Angel, a public affairs and sociology professor, said the UT Hispanic population has not grown as fast as the state because of high high-school dropout rates, the cost of higher education and socioeconomic status.

“Hispanic enrollments in higher education may not be projected to increase proportionally to growth [in Texas],” Angel said. “It’s going to be important to address the problem of the lack of Hispanic individuals getting baccalaureate and post-graduate degrees. We need to make sure we are mirroring the rest of the state.”

Brandon Hunter, co-director of UT’s Latino Leadership Council, said the University could help increase the Hispanic student population by recruiting more aggressively, providing bilingual programs for parents and making tuition more affordable.

“I think they’re pretty evident of the University’s not-so-great job of increasing diversity,” Hunter said. “You see this with the rolling back of the top-10 percent rule and the little attempt the University has done to keep retention up among Latinos. I think it’s been a general failure but also a lack of prioritization of diversity.”

Angel said there are ways to increase the number of minority students such as adding additional minority faculty.
“When you have faculty members who understand your background, it really shows students how education pays off,” she said. “We need to work very hard at this in light of the staggering trends that we’re seeing.”

Murdock said legislators could also help diversification by maintaining TEXAS Grants and need-based financial aid in the 2012-13 biennium budget.

“The thing we can do right now in light of all these budget cuts is not to cut the TEXAS Grants program but in fact to look at it and put it at the level it was proposed to be in the early 2000s,” he said.

Unlike the Hispanic student population, the Asian undergraduate student population of UT — 17.9 percent including international students — surpasses the census estimates of Asian Americans making up 3.8 percent of the Texas population, or approximately 965,000 people. Madeline Hsu, director of the Center for Asian American Studies said Asian immigration into the U.S. since 1865 has included many middle class families with parents who already have college degrees.

“There is a tendency for families who have college degrees to continue getting an education,” Hsu said.

She said by 2014, Asian-Americans are projected to be the second-largest minority population in Texas, with a larger population than African-Americans.

Deputy Director of Admissions Augustine Garza said the disparity exists and partially results from the top-8 percent rule — legislation passed last session allowing UT to limit the number of automatically admitted high school graduates from the previous top-10 percent.

“We’re going to continue to talk to students who are the top of their class,” Garza said. “The population we target in our recruiting does not necessarily mirror the population of the state of Texas.”

Hsu said if the top-8 percent rule were eliminated, UT could have more minority groups on campus.

“Focusing on class rank is a vary narrow kind of system,” she said. “In general, the University would benefit by having a broader array [of enrollment]. It is an imperfect mechanism to accomplish diversity.”