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College enrollment of Hispanic students on the rise nationwide

Hispanic college enrollment increased by almost a quarter from 2009 to 2010, mirroring the nation’s rapidly diversifying population.

According to a study conducted by the Pew Research Center, college enrollment for Hispanics aged 18 to 24 increased by 24 percent in 2010.

In October 2010, there were 12.2 million Hispanics enrolled in college — the highest number recorded.

Hispanics are now the largest minority group in community colleges, but they still lag behind blacks in four-year colleges, said Richard Fry, a senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center who produced the report.

Fry said he expects Hispanics to soon become the largest minority in four-year schools.

But while Hispanics are entering college at an increasing rate, many of them still don’t graduate, Fry said.

“As Hispanic numbers continue to grow, colleges will devote more resources to improve the college persistence rate,” Fry said. “There may be more attention and effort toward helping students finish their courses of study.”

Fry attributed the increase to a growth in the country’s Hispanic population, along with increasing high school graduation rates among Hispanics.

Of those high school graduates, more are attending college, he said. In 2009, 36 percent of Hispanic high school graduates attended college, and in 2010, that number rose to 44 percent, Fry said.

Ashley Memory, senior assistant director for UNC-CH undergraduate admissions, said 261 students in the University’s entering freshman class are Hispanic.

The University saw an increase of almost six percent in Hispanic applicants for the class of 2015, she said.

“By mirroring the diversity of our state, Hispanic students play an integral role in contributing to a positive learning environment at Carolina, and we are pleased by the recent overall increases,” Memory said in an email.

Few undocumented Hispanic students enroll at UNC-CH, but those who do count as out-of-state students toward the University’s 18-percent cap, she said.

At UNC-CH, 70.6 percent of Hispanic students graduate in four years, and 12.9 percent of those students don’t graduate.

Marina Offner, assistant director of undergraduate admissions at N.C. State University, said its class of 2015 has about two percent more Hispanic students than the previous class.

Offner, who specializes in diversity recruitment, said the key to attracting Hispanic students is creating strong connections in the community.

Student organizations are also working to increase retention among Hispanic students.

Renato Pereyra is the president of Carolina Firsts, an organization at UNC-CH that mentors first-generation college students.

“One of the biggest challenges is you walk around this campus and you don’t see faces familiar to what you look like,” he said.

Pereyra said the group works to increase the first-generation graduation rate by pairing first-year members of the organization with upperclassmen mentors and planning social events to encourage community building.

“People thrive when they feel a sense of community, a sense of belonging,” he said.

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Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.