UNCW seeks Hispanics

By: - July 6, 2005 5:24 am

Wilmington Star-News

In the past decade, the number of Hispanics in the state’s public schools has skyrocketed by nearly 27 times.

But the number of those going to college hasn’t kept pace.
That’s where Marcio Moreno comes in.

He’s the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s first recruiter to comb the state for Hispanics at the top of their class.

But his job is not as easy at it sounds. Panamanian-born Mr. Moreno has a lot of roadblocks to clear, including the fact that many Hispanics don’t take the SATs or college-preparation classes in high school, he said. High tuition costs are also a problem for undocumented teens, who must pay out-of-state prices.

The job of recruiting Hispanics doesn’t entail just talking to them about college. It involves bonding with them culturally and involving their parents, who often speak only Spanish. It also involves trying to motivate them to go to college even though many of the families can’t afford it.

So besides recruiting, Mr. Moreno is going to be relying on his skills as an educator to teach high school counselors to encourage Hispanics to think about going to college.

He will also focus on educating teachers of English as a second language and administrators to do the same.

“I’m not just recruiting,” the 29-year-old assistant director of admissions said. He received a master’s degree in English as a second language methods from the University of Panama. “I’m changing mentalities.”

The university hired Mr. Moreno to help implement the university’s diversity plan that includes recruiting students from underrepresented populations as well as hiring a diverse faculty.

It’s an initiative started by Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo.

In fact, hiring a bilingual person to work on admissions was the second of 10 priorities for the university this year to diversify the campus. Mr. Moreno started June 15 earns $35,000.

Some of his plans for recruiting Hispanics include translating campus brochures into Spanish and publishing information in Spanish on the UNCW’s Web site. He wants the university to buy billboard space along major corridors to attract Hispanics. He will give special campus tours in Spanish. And he will travel to middle and high schools with a group of Hispanics to give presentations about going to college.

And he will work tirelessly with families, explaining the college process to parents just becoming accustomed to the culture.
“We have to make everybody aware they have to get ready,” he said. “Saying ‘no’ to a university – that’s not going to be an option.”

In the last decade, the number of Hispanics attending public schools skyrocketed about 2,700 percent, from 3,201 to 88,355, according to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction’s schools profile.

That’s because the Hispanic population in the state is one of the fastest growing in the country.

A 2004 report showed that 1,069 Latinos took the SAT, the most widely used college admissions test that assesses verbal and mathematics reasoning.

By contrast, 28,984 whites and 9,626 blacks took the tests, according to the report, College Bound Seniors, compiled by the College Board, a nonprofit association that develops the SAT.

Mr. Moreno said there is also a disparity between the percentage of county populations and the number of students taking the SAT.

For example, in Cumberland, where the number of Hispanics is about 7 percent, 120 Latino students took the SAT. But in heavily Hispanic Duplin County – where the Hispanic population is about 15 percent – 13 high school students took the SAT this year. Mr. Moreno’s numbers are based on a program the university has for student recruitment. Mr. Moreno believes there are fewer test takers in Duplin because of a higher number of undocumented Hispanics.

“When I worked in Duplin County … there are middle schools that are 40 percent Hispanic,” he said.

“They think that if they don’t have a Social Security number, they can’t go,” he said about why Latinos don’t pursue higher education.

Another hurdle is the expensive, out-of-state tuition many undocumented immigrants have to pay.

An in-state UNCW student pays $12,825 in tuition, fees, room and board, while the out-of-state rate is nearly double at $22,535.

A bill that would have allowed undocumented residents to attend college for the in-state rate failed to pass in the state legislature.

Instead of going to college, Latinos at the top of their class are going to work at trade jobs or in the fields.

“I’ve seen kids coming to my table telling me they’re not doing anything,” he said about his job recruiting for Fayetteville State University prior to joining UNCW.

At UNCW, 224 undergraduate and graduate students were Hispanic out of 10,495 of the school’s population in 2005.
That number needs to be higher, Mr. Moreno said.

“Few universities are recognizing the Hispanic boom,” he said.
Veronica Gonzalez: 343-2008
[email protected]

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Chris Fitzsimon

Chris Fitzsimon, Founder and Executive Director of N.C. Policy Watch, writes the Fitzsimon File, delivers a radio commentary broadcast on WRAL-FM and hosts "News and Views," a weekly radio news magazine that airs on multiple stations across North Carolina. [email protected] 919-861-2066