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.
“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
“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
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