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Latino college recruiter visits TPS students

By Kevin Milliken for La Prensa


Latino high school students at Toledo Public Schools (TPS) considering a college education were given another alternative Monday, Nov. 14, 2011: studying at New Mexico Highlands University.

Gil González, recruitment director for the university, and a Latino language and culture studies professor—Eric Romero—met with TPS Latino students at both Woodward and Waite high schools. The pair emphasized the university’s willingness to accept students from undocumented families.

Gil González, Dr. Rubén P. Viramontez Anguiano, José Luna, and Dr. Eric Romero address students at Woodward and Waite High Schools concerning New Mexico Highlands University in Las Vegas, New Mexico.


The New Mexico guests were introduced by Dr. Rubén P. Viramontez Anguiano, a former native of New Mexico and a current professor at Bowling Green State University.


For more than a century, New Mexico Highlands University has served as a leading academic, cultural and economic institution for the communities of northern New Mexico. More recently, NMHU has focused on undocumented students from across the country—because it is an educationally underserved population that won’t be accepted at many major universities.

The Toledo trip was the first one for school officials in search of potential students from Northwest Ohio. NMHU officials held question-and-answer sessions with students in Woodward’s library and Waite’s cafeteria during the day, then a presentation for students and parents in the evening.


“I think it’s important for the students to know that there’s something outside this area for them to go and experience and learn from,” said José Luna, TPS Hispanic outreach coordinator. “They can learn from the diversity at a different university.”


“They had a lot of questions on what it’s like to be a Chicano, or a Mexicano,” said González. “We’re also addressing some of the issues with our undocumented population and what we’re doing in New Mexico to gain them access to education.”


“A college education should be about students becoming empowered, not just skilled to develop into careers—but empowered so they’re making change within their home communities, within their home cultures, and within their home families,” said Dr. Eric Romero, NMHU professor of language and culture. “So I’m part of that throwback paradigm. I was invited to address the students who may not be motivated or feel obstacles are in place. We want students to do well.”


New Mexico is only one of three states where an undocumented resident can obtain a driver’s license. González called it “a big deal when it comes to employment.” New Mexico’s universities remain open to undocumented students, which remains a barrier to higher education in many other places, including Ohio. NMHU is located in a rural area with a low-income population and thus, has had to keep its tuition rates affordable to local residents.


Ohio students would pay an out-of-state tuition rate of $2,662 for 12-18 credit hours. But González stated if a student can show a 3.0 grade point average coming out of high school, the school will knock tuition down to an in-state rate, which is about $1,000 less per semester.


“If they consider themselves to have limited opportunity because of their citizenship status, we’re willing to work with them,” said Dr. Romero.


“We have mechanisms and networks and different strategies in place, not to ensure or guarantee, but to help them as best as possible to achieve the educational goals they may be thinking about at this point. We’re aware of their plight and we’re mobilizing with resources and different kinds of articulations, but most of all, information that opportunities do exist.”


“With the economic downturn we’ve had, a lot of universities have had to raise their pricing and what happens—for a lot of first-generation Latino students the income is just not there to support a student going to a university,” explained González. “We happen to be the most affordable four-year school in the western half of the United States.”


The recruitment director explained that an out-of-state student could attend the school for as little as $9,000 or as much as $14,000 per year, depending on residence halls, meal plans, and the like.


Highlands University is only 2,400 students, but offers its student body Division II athletics. The New Mexico-based university also boasts a 22-to-1 student-faculty ratio.


“You get that smaller attention that you need to really succeed,” said González. “You’re not a number like you are at the bigger universities.”


“We’ve always been a Hispanic-serving institution, so there’s a lot of federal money there to help support students with TRIO programs, STEM programs to help them succeed toward a university degree,” said González. “We want to put them in a position to succeed. We believe a smaller university with more individualized attention will hopefully get them through. It’s not about starting, it’s about finishing.”


56 percent of the student population is Latino, 14 percent is African-American, and seven percent is Native American. 36 countries and 42 states also are represented at Highlands University.


“I think their goal is to not only bring diversity in the sense of ethnicity, but diversity as far as where students come from, different parts of the country,” said Luna. “I really think they want students to experience a real national and international flavor. They do have a large international population, too.”


“They ought to take advantage of their college education as a matter of understanding their identity, understanding their community, understanding their purpose—almost a spiritual direction to it,” said Dr. Romero. “That’s the privilege I enjoy: helping students find themselves, find their character, find their motivation.”


“We’re hoping that one or two kids become five or ten kids and we start creating a pipeline,” said González. “We hope the kids just keep coming back.”


Copyright © 1989 to 2011 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 11/15/11 13:12:17 -0800.





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