Although the population of Hispanic students accounted for less than 1 percent of total enrollment at SIU in 2010, some students and faculty said they think that number has grown.
SIU had 824 Hispanic undergraduate students enrolled in 2010, according to information from the SIU Office of Institutional Research and Studies. This accounted for .05 percent of the 15,137 students who made up the total undergraduate population.
The information also states 121 Hispanic graduate students, or .02 percent of the graduate student population, were enrolled that year. Hispanics also accounted for .03 percent of the post-doctoral student population.
The 21 Hispanic doctoral students enrolled in 2010 accounted for the largest population among ethnic groups in doctoral studies, according to the research information.
The statistics also showed that the amount of Hispanics at the university has nearly doubled since the 491 students enrolled in 2002.
“The Latino community is growing since I have been here at SIU,” said Alberto Rosario, a senior from Puerto Rico studying social work. “Still, though, we are a small community.”
In addition to a Hispanic population growth at SIU in recent years, data shows it has increased by millions in the U.S. since 2000.
The 2010 U.S. Census showed Hispanics surpassed the black population as the second-largest population group behind whites. The number of Hispanics in the U.S. grew from about 35 million in 2000 to nearly 50 million in 2010. There are 37 million blacks in the United States, according to the census.
“Having more Latinos on campus would not only benefit the students, (but) SIU can get more money if they bring more Latinos to attend,” Rosario said.
Peter Gitau, associate vice chancellor and dean of students, said SIU is working to bring more Latino students to Carbondale. He said the creation of the Center for Inclusive Excellence is just one example of the university’s work.
“Hispanics are the fastest-growing population in the United States, and here on campus we are enhancing our programs and services so that the Hispanic students we recruit can find a home here,” he said. “We hope they can find programs that relate to them and promote their heritage.”
The university also celebrated Latino Heritage Month during the past few weeks. The month-long celebration concluded Monday night with a reception and the first-ever Mr. Latino and Ms. Latina Pageant.
Angel Escobar, a senior from Chicago studying mechanical engineering and pre-veterinarian, said he has enjoyed the month because the activities have raised awareness across campus.
“It shows our culture,” he said. “Not that many people know about our culture. They are closed-minded, and they need to know there’s a lot more to our culture than what they think.”
The 2010 census showed Illinois had the fifth-largest Latino population in the U.S. with more than 2 million, and Rosario said SIU makes some effort to recruit these Latinos.
However, he said most students probably attend the university because of family or friends who attend. SIU has recently begun to send Latino recruiters to recruit Latino students, Rosario said.
Several Latino organizations in Chicago also help Latino students choose a college.
Rosario said he estimates most SIU Latino students come from the Chicago area because of the university’s marketing presence there. He said he thinks SIU mainly appeals to low-income Latino communities.
“These students come to SIU and are in school for the fall and cannot return in spring because of the cost of schooling,” Rosario said. “I help students get students loans because it’s hard to see that some of these students do not return to SIU because the family does not have the credit to get a loan.”
Rosario said he has done his part to help the Latino population at SIU grow. He helped push for the creation of SIU’s Hispanic Resource Center in 2010 and was the first student to work there. He has also created programs for Latino students and helped recruiters.
Candis Nikolic, a graduate student in social work from Chicago, works at the resource center and said its creation is a step in the right direction for the university to appeal to Latinos.
“We feel like we have a lot of support now,” she said. “It’s been a big movement that’s developing little by little. I feel like we get a lot of support where we are now.”
Rosario said he thinks the amount of Latino faculty members at the university needs to improve, too. According to data on the SIU website, there were four Hispanic faculty administrators out of the 91 total in 2011. There were 42 Hispanic faculty members among the total 1,351 at the university.
“I see that there are not any Latinos on this campus as higher heads,” Rosario said.
Edith Ortiz-Ruiz, a sophomore from Chicago studying civil engineering, and Jazmin Duran, a junior from Elgin studying Spanish and international trade, said the campus is moving in the right direction, but they believe it has a long way to go before it is completely Latino-friendly.
Rosario agreed. He said he hopes to see 4,000 to 6,000 Latino students enrolled in the next five years.
“It’s important to see more Latinos on campus because more Latinos are joining higher education and need the support of others,” he said. “We Latinos are like family. We help each other with anything and everything.”