Hispanic students: fastest growing minority at Kent

Sara Welch

The Hispanic student population at Kent State increased about 17 percent from last year – the biggest jump in university history.

“The increase in Hispanic students this year is the biggest increase we’ve ever had,” said Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity.

Hispanics are the largest as well as the fastest growing minority population in the United States. At Kent State it is second to the black population, but they are increasing the fastest.

“The increase in Hispanic students reflects a national increase,” said Wayne Schneider, director of research, planning and institutional effectiveness. “Hispanics are the fastest growing minority population.”

“The increasing Hispanic population is causing a growth in the overall minority population,” Michael said.

The Asian student population increased 15.9 percent and the black student population increased 3.2 percent compared to last year.

“Kent has been pushing for more diversity among students and faculty, which is playing out overall,” Schneider said.

Kent has been endorsing programs to target the Hispanic population, Michael said.

The university used to have a program with Lorain, where the largest concentration of Hispanic residents in the area live, Michael said. But that program and a few others have been cut because of funding.

The largest increases in Hispanic student populations are in southern states and community colleges, Michael said.

“African-Americans are the largest minority population at Kent, but that is changing fast as more Hispanics are seeking higher education,” Michael said. “There has especially been an increase at our regional campuses.”

Although the Hispanic population at Kent State has experienced its biggest increase, Anita Maldonado, a term instructor of Pan-African studies, doesn’t think enough is being done to keep students here.

“Kent needs to do a better job,” she said. “Right now they are only recruiting from heavily populated areas.”

Better recruiting means expanding recruiting methods and maintaining the population that already exists, Maldonado said.

“We need to make sure that once they are here, they stay here,” she said.

Maldonado said Kent State should provide mentors and create more social activities for Hispanic students because the university is not doing enough to get them involved.

“There are some events during Hispanic month, but the university must go beyond that,” she said. “Creating a Hispanic-friendly environment is more than having activities once a year.”

Even so, Kent State has taken measures to create Hispanic courses in the Pan-African studies department. Maldonado said these courses help create a better environment for minority students.

“Naturally students gravitate toward these classes because the topics have to do with them,” Maldonado said. “This needs to be part of a broader strategy to get students engaged in the campus.”

Michael said he expects the Hispanic student population at Kent State to continue growing steadily, given the nation’s population trend and the university’s efforts to create new programs to recruit those students.

“I expect to see a big change in diversity initiatives and programs targeting Hispanic students when the new vice provost of diversity affairs takes over in the fall,” Michael said.

Contact ethnic affairs reporter Sara Welch at [email protected].