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Minority enrollment reaches record high

By Monica Warren
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, October 22, 2004
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For the first time in UA history, minority students make up more than 25 percent of the total student population, according to fall 2004 enrollment data.

Hispanics make up the largest minority group at the school, with 5,024 students, or 13 percent of the total student population.

Overall enrollment at the UA held steady for fall 2004, falling 151 students shy of last year's record number of students, according to data from the Office of Enrollment Research.

This year, 36,932 undergraduate, graduate and professional students are studying at the university.

While the number of undergraduates and new students has decreased, the data showed the number of minorities has increased, from 8,632 in fall 2003 to 8,774 in fall 2004.

Marisol Diaz, coordinator of retention for Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs, said the university hasn't yet met challenges and initiatives it has set for itself regarding diversity.

"We might be enrolling more students, but retention numbers for all the minority groups are not what they should be," Diaz said.

She said in order for the university to reach its goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution, a designation which requires 25 percent of the undergraduate student body to be Hispanic, retention rates need to be much higher than they are now.

"Honestly, I think we still have a lot more to go," Diaz said. "We shouldn't be patting ourselves on the back yet."

Freshmen retention rates reached their highest levels ever. Nearly 80 percent of last year's freshmen returned to the university this fall.

"Both in terms of recruitment and retention, we feel pretty good about the numbers this year," said Rick Kroc, assistant vice president for Enrollment Research and Operations.

Kroc said the effort to recruit students to the UA starts as early as junior high school.

"That has to start pretty early, especially with students who have friends and family who haven't been to college," Kroc said.

Fewer new undergraduate students started at the UA this year than each of the past four years. This fall 7,653 new freshmen and transfer students enrolled, compared to a record high 8,035 in the fall of 2001.

Seventy-six National Merit Scholars came to the UA this fall, bringing the total to 268. The addition of 10 new Flinn Scholars brought the total number to 60 enrolled at the UA.

Top students were invited to the university for campus visits, said Patricia MacCorquodale, dean of the Honors College.

The college arranged for them to stay overnight in residence halls, talk with advisers for programs they were interested in and visit classes, she said. Last year was also the first year the Honors College recruited National Merit Scholars from out of state, she said.

Diaz said the CHSA is focusing more on retention than recruitment. She said each of the cultural centers has placed more emphasis on helping first-year students on campus.

CHSA has a program for first-year students called "Success Express" that "serves students who feel like they might be at risk and need help," Diaz said. The class focuses on study skills and other academic areas, she said.

Even though the classes are open to all students, most of the participants are minorities, Diaz said.

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