Sergio Quintero, a third-year English major, sits at the Arbor during a typical, sunny Santa Barbara day, reading Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises. He gets distracted as the occasional group of high school students pass by, led by other UCSB students.
What Quintero sees is a group of mostly Latino students who come from underprivileged neighborhoods to tour a potential future college. “That was totally me, like five years ago,” said Quintero.
Quintero is not alone. He is part of a growing number of first-generation Latino students who are changing the demographics of UCSB. The demographic shifts at UCSB reflect the combined efforts of the university and student groups to recruit Latino students, UCSB officials said.
However, with the large number of Latino students who have been recruited, university officials are now developing strategies to retain this population. Through continued engagement with student groups, UCSB officials say they will continue to develop policies to make the university a more diverse campus.
UCSB is now a Hispanic Serving Institution
Earlier this year, the UCSB administration declared UCSB has become a certified Hispanic Serving Institution, or HSI, by the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, also known as HACU. Officials said this is because UCSB surpasses HACU’s 25 percent requirement of Latino students. The increase in Latino students at UCSB is up 92 percent in less than 20 years, as 14 percent of the UCSB student body was Latino in 1997, compared to 27 percent today.
With this certification, officials say UCSB is now eligible to apply for various grants through Title V of the Higher Education Act. This grant money can be used for projects such as increasing laboratory space, hiring more counselors and mentors, and creating more endowment funds
HACU first started lobbying Congress for Hispanic Serving Institutions in 1992, to create
Hispanic Serving Institutions are on the rise, with two-thirds of all Latino college students attending a HSI.
programs to recruit and retain Latino students at colleges and universities. In the 23 years since its founding, HACU says that HSIs have spread throughout the country, with two-thirds of all Latino college students enrolled in a HSI. Santa Barbara is now the fourth UC campus to become a HSI, after Riverside, Santa Cruz, and Merced.
According to HACU, in 2015, Hispanic Serving Institutions received $98 million in funding from the Department of Education. HACU has recommended the department to appropriate $175 million in 2016.
Recruitment and retention
University officials attribute the rise in the Latino population at UCSB to the various strategies it has employed to recruit and retain Latinos. While both recruitment and retention are elements in increasing the Latino population, officials said, the specific tactics used are different.
First, recruitment is convincing young minds around California that UCSB is the right institution for them, said Professor Maria Herrera Sobek, the Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity and Academic Policy.
UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang (left) holds frequent receptions to recruit first-generation Latino students.
Sobek said that Chancellor Henry Yang holds receptions for the brightest Latino students in the state to make the case that UCSB can serve a diversity of needs. “These are outstanding students, you know, students who have already been accepted and now they just have a choice, whether they can go to Berkeley, UCLA or San Diego,” said Sobek. “But when we present how beautiful and wonderful UCSB is, students get excited to accept us.”
University officials said the active recruitment of Latino students does not run contrary to the ban on affirmative action. Sobek said the increase in Latino students is a result of demographic shifts throughout California, and the recruitment of low-income and first-generation students in general.
On the other hand, retention focuses on keeping those students enrolled once they get to the university level. Retention is especially pertinent for the Latino community at UCSB, because many are also first-generation students, said Cairo Bricena, a third-year Latin American Studies and Political Science major
As co-chair of the Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee, or SIRRC, Bricena works first-hand with other student leaders to create programs aimed at maintaining first-generation retention. These programs help students who haven’t gotten exposure to college culture through their parents, and might find it difficult to thrive at UCSB, said Bricena
One such program is called G.U.I.D.E.S Summer Orientation, or G.S.O. Bricena said that G.S.O is a five-day mentorship program in which incoming first-years are paired with an active student leader, and are introduced to the rigor of the university.
Bricena said the goal of G.S.O is to actively engage these new students. “Our focus is to develop activism, leadership, and involvement in our students,” said Bricena. Bricena said that increased leadership and activism will give students a sense of belonging at UCSB, which will ensure that they graduate with their degree.
Alongside G.S.O, Bricena said that SIRRC has developed strategies to mitigate the increasing financial burden of rising tuition costs and expensive books. SIRRC has recently developed a book bank, a student-run library, where students can rent free books and readers. Through the SIRRC website, any student can check the library catalog and rent a book for any subject, ranging from Portuguese to Metaphysics.
Student organizers from A.S. SIRRC at a recruitment fair at UCSB
Joshua Hudson, co-chair of retention at SIRRC, said strategies like the book bank create a safety net for low-income students who may feel out of place on campus. “There are people who have overcome adversity and they will build a strong community for not only you, but for everyone who is experiencing everything that you have been through,” Hudson said.
The fight against alienation
Hudson said that there are still students who feel alienated on campus, which has a bearing on their retention at UCSB. In the most recent campus climate survey results, eight percent of Latino students reported feeling disrespected on campus. This contrasts with white students, as two percent of white respondents reported feeling disrespected.
Tackling the issue of alienation is a priority of the UCSB administration, said Vice Chancellor Sobek, and the office of the chancellor will work to ensure everyone’s happiness. Sobek said that the administration is planning on using the HSI grants to expand counseling services to students. While still benefitting Latino students, Sobek said these services will be useful to all.
Moreover, university officials are planning on hiring professional focus groups to define the specific needs of students. “We want to hear directly from students what is going on, what is hostile and how we can improve it,” said Sobek. “ Not only what is the problem, but the best way to address it and make our campus much better.”
One such need the university has identified through this outreach to Latino students is hiring more faculty of color, said Sobek. “You can’t just say we’re going to hire more faculty of color,” said Sobek. “You need to recruit and make sure that faculty of color would want to come here.”
For instance, Sobek said that addressing the structural needs of the university, such as more lab space, will make UCSB more attractive to faculty of color. Addressing these structural needs will give students the resources needed to maintain high academic achievement, and make informed choices, said Sobek.
With graduation on his horizon, Sergio Quintero considers himself a product of the efforts of both student organizations and a change in university policy. He said that he is looking
Quintero (left) with a fellow member of his pre-law fraternity
forward to seeing the increased efforts of the university administration to change the stigmas and stereotypes of UCSB as a school composed of mostly white students.
Regardless of the stereotypes, Quintero is thankful for the communities that have helped him not only survive, but excel, at UCSB. “Both of my parents are immigrants, and weren’t able to guide me along the whole way,” said Quintero. “At UCSB I feel at home. And now I’m going to law school. That’s absolutely crazy to me.”
- “Developing Hispanic-Serving Institutions Program – Title V.” Department of Education, n.d. Web. May 2015.
- “The Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.” N.p., n.d. Web. May 2015.
- “Student Initiated Recruitment and Retention Committee.” N.p., n.d. Web. May 2015
- “Interview With Sergio Quintero.” Personal interview. May 2015.
- “Interview With Professor Maria Herrera-Sobek”. Personal Interview. May 2015
- “Interview With Cairo Bricena”. Personal Interview. May 2015
- “Interview With Joshua Hudson”. Personal Interview. May 2015
- “A Commitment to Diversity”. The UCSB Current. May 2015