This school year, the Council for Racial and Ethnic Equity and Diversity — which advises the Provost on how to recruit and retain diverse faculty — is focusing on studying the status of Hispanics at UT and is looking into the possibility of UT becoming a Hispanic-Serving Institution.
Hispanic-Serving Institutions are higher education institutions where at least 25 percent of the undergraduate students are Hispanic. They are eligible to apply for federal grants through the federal Title V program.
Deborah Parra-Medina, director of the Latino Research Institute, said the institution committee was created under the University’s diversity council this year. The committee includes admissions faculty, faculty from other departments and alumni, among others.
Parra-Medina said in 2018, the number of undergraduate Hispanic students at UT was 21 percent, which makes UT an emerging Hispanic-Serving Institution. In order to increase the Latino enrollment rate, she said there needs to be work done with admissions outreach and trying to retain students.
She also said a concerning number of minority students such as Hispanics, African-Americans and first-generation students are not graduating within six years, and one reason could be because these students don’t feel like they fit in.
“I think (by) increasing diversity, students maybe will feel less socially isolated in the environment,” Parra-Medina said. “The (Hispanic-Serving Institution) status will allow us to then access resources that we can bring in to help support students and their success.”
Jorge Haynes is a UT alumni and has worked for Hispanic-Serving Institutions in the California State University System for 14 years. He said he supports the idea of UT gaining Hispanic-Serving Institution status.
“It would be a huge thing for the University of Texas to achieve Hispanic-Serving Institution status, and they would be such a strong voice within the (Hispanic-Serving Institution) community,” Haynes said.
He said some people might think that by becoming a Hispanic-Serving Insitution, the University would be lowering its standards.
“None of this is about lowering standards,” Haynes said. “It’s merely about doing a better job of recruiting the largest consumer base that you have in the state of Texas.”
Haynes said there are few tier one research universities in the country that are Hispanic-Serving Institutions. According to Best Value Schools, there are only three in the United States.
“I think that having a Hispanic-Serving Institution that’s also a tier one research-intensive university would send a signal that you can still be superior and have diversity at the same time,” Parra-Medina said. “One does not compromise the other.”
Casilda Clarich, network chair of the Hispanic Texas Exes Alumni Network, said she also supports the idea of UT receiving Hispanic-Serving Instution status because it would benefit students.
“I’m excited about the possibility of what it can offer our students in the areas of retention, graduation (and) acclamation,” Clarich said.
Parra-Medina said UT is preparing the next generation of leaders, which includes Latinos.
“As the state and country are becoming more diverse we need to prepare the leaders of tomorrow,” Parra-Medina said. “We need those leaders to represent and reflect the population, and more and more we’re going to need Latinos to be in those positions.”