Photo: Delece Smith-Barrow/The Hechinger Report.

As more Latinos go to college, schools vie to become Hispanic-Serving Institutions

The University of Central Florida opened during the civil rights movement, and from the beginning school leaders made racial diversity a priority. In 1969, the school established a black student union. In 1970, it developed an affirmative action strategy. Now UCF is on a new mission to excel in enrolling, educating and graduating Latino students, and nothing better sums up its new diversity goal than the phrase on the T-shirts displayed in the front of its bookstore: “¡Vamos Knights!”

The school is increasing its resources for Latinos, hosting roundtables on undocumented immigrant students and offering workshops on topics such as “Latinidad and LGBTQ+.” After Hurricane Maria, it welcomed displaced Puerto Ricans and gave them an in-state tuition break.

Like hundreds of universities around the country, the University of Central Florida’s Hispanic population has been growing, rising from 21.6 percent in fall 2014 to 26 percent today. Nationally, Hispanic college enrollment grew from 8 to 19 percent of all students between 1996 and 2016, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cyndia Muñiz, UCF’s assistant director for Hispanic-serving initiatives, said her institution has embraced the growth. “We want to be an example of what it means to be a Hispanic-serving institution, if not the example,” she said.

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