While Mr. Olivas suggests that schools turn to recruiting as a way to meet diversity goals, others say it could take years for schools to get serious about this. "The nation doesn't see the immediacy of a need for diversity," says Antonio Flores, chief executive officer of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. "The nation doesn't recognize this as a national imperative. It affects the nation as a whole, though, because the idea of diversity as a component of higher education is that it forms people with global minds and adds value to education that you could not ordinarily get from your everyday life. It allows you to be better prepared to compete."
If the number of Hispanics earning bachelor's degrees were to double by 2010, tax revenue would increase by $7.6 billion over the students' lifetimes and $14 billion in disposable income would be added to the U.S. economy, according to the Hispanic Scholarship foundation.
That's a big 'if.' In the current environment, diversity may actually fall, as happened at Texas A&M and the University of Texas, Austin. In 1998, reacting to the Supreme Court's refusal to review a lower court's ruling in Hopwood v. Texas – establishing that the University of Texas Law School could not use race in deciding admissions – the Texas legislature began the "Texas 10 Percent Plan," guaranteeing that students in the top 10 percent of their high school classes will be admitted to any state university.
Comparing 1990 and 2000 (two years after the plan took effect), the percentage of Hispanic applicants who were admitted dropped from 79.9 percent to 68.3 percent at Texas A&M and from 77.7 percent to 76.3 percent at UT Austin. Princeton professor and researcher Marta Tienda found in this 2003 study for Princeton University's Office of Population Research that UT Austin had an aggressive outreach plan, to recruit economically disadvantaged and minority students while Texas A&M had only recently begun a similar program.
In another study of the top 10-percent plan, Ms. Tienda and her colleagues found that Hispanic high school students generally developed college aspirations late: only 30 percent had applied to four-year colleges by spring of their senior years. The researchers also found that only 71 percent of the highest-ranking Hispanic graduates planned to attend four-year schools, with cost and geographical distance from home key factors in that decision.
In a February 2006 study following students through the Texas system, Ms. Tienda and fellow Princeton researcher Sunny Niu concluded that "without aggressive recruitment at inner-city high schools with low college-going traditions and high minority student populations, coupled with generous scholarship support to enable high-ranked students from low performing schools to attend UT or A&M, the capacity of the law to diversify is limited."
Nationwide, the picture is not much different. Comparing U.S. Department of Education data for 1996 and 2004, the most recent year available, enrollment of Hispanics at top-tier colleges has changed little on a percentage basis, says Richard Fry, senior research associate at the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization supported by the Pew Charitable Trusts.
"What's different is that Hispanic students play a much greater role in two-year and vocational-education schools," he says. Mr. Fry attributes this to the concentration of Hispanic high school students in states with well-developed community college systems, the number of students having no other family members who've attended college, and other factors that are harder to measure.
Counseling systems often fail to direct minority students in urban schools to higher education, says Sheldon Steinbach, general counsel for the American Council on Education, which represents 1,800 colleges and universities.
"We know what the problems are," Mr. Steinbach says. "One is trying to ensure young men and women are taking the requisite courses and are being supported in their education.Young men and women need to realize college is possible without thinking Hoop Dreams is the only way to succeed. They need to realize student financial aid is available. It's not all about money, but additional resources would help."
Twenty-five percent of Hispanic students receive loans to pay for college, compared with 29 percent of white and 26 percent of black students, according to a 2004 study by Deborah A. Santiago and Sarita Brown for the Pew Hispanic Center. This may be due in part, they say, to where Hispanic students enroll – almost half start their higher education at a nearby community college, and most don't transfer to a four-year college.
The challenges for degree-granting schools are not just getting students into college, but keeping them there.
"There's solid support for diversity in the student body," says John A. Garcia, a political science professor at the University of Arizona. "Then, when you talk about how to do it, there's competition for resources."
Nonetheless, the school has beefed up its minority recruitment, reaching out to families for support. "In some universities, it's a long-term effort," Mr. Garcia says. "Ours has targeted low-income elementary and middle schools. If a student participates, the parents must agree to participate, too, so we're informing the parents and getting their commitment."
Parental and family involvement is integral to breaking down some of the self-imposed barriers to higher education. At the University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, Margaret Montoya, a law professor on a School of Medicine admission committee, says, "Since I started working with outreach in the public schools I've found a lot of parents have never set foot on a campus."
This creates personal obstacles for Hispanic students who end their higher education at community college. "It requires a psychological step to move away from home and to a school that's possibly more academically rigorous.
"We need to give a message to low-income and immigrant families that they're making an investment in the student…Even one member of the family going on in higher education can have incredible repercussions on younger family members," Ms. Montoya says.
The Supreme Court didn't kill affirmative action, she says; they renewed it.
"I think the new emphasis on the educational pipeline – university collaborations with community colleges and public schools to improve graduation rates, academic preparation and college planning with students and parents – is an outgrowth of the Grutter-Gratz litigation," Ms. Montoya explains. "The collaborations that are developing around the nation will create synergy and innovation in addressing a range of problems that students of color face at different points along the educational continuum from pre-kindergarten to doctoral studies.
"Our challenge and our promise as a nation is to take advantage of the diversity presented to us."
Most Popular Stories
- Apple Wants Samsung to Pay $22M for Patent Dispute Legal Bills
- Twitter Coming to Phones Without Internet
- NASA Fellowships, Scholarships Bring Diversity to Workforce
- Dish Network Leads 2013 Top 50 Advertisers List
- Networks Vie for U.S. Hispanic TV Viewers
- Ad Counts Rise in 2013 for Hispanic Magazines
- Entravision Initiates Quarterly Cash Dividend
- Jobs Report Brings Cheer As Unemployment Drops to Five-year Low
- Starbucks Gets Grinchy; No Gingerbread Lattes for Tampa Customers
- Warner Bros. Unleashes 'Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug' Merchandise