October 1, 2007
COLLEGE STATION, Texas — A record number of black and Hispanic students applied and were accepted to Texas A&M University this fall, but their representation in the freshman class remained even with the previous two years.
Hispanics make up 14 percent and blacks 3 percent of the 8,078 freshmen enrolled this fall, according to the university's preliminary counts. That's the same as 2005 and 2006.
"We still face the challenge of convincing minority students who are admitted to actually enroll," interim President Eddie Davis said in a recent talk with faculty members.
The state's second-largest university has been working to boost minority enrollment, but it does not consider race as a factor in admissions.
The school has invested more than $30 million in minority-recruitment programs, including scholarships for first-generation students and new recruitment centers in Dallas, Houston, San Antonio and South Texas.
The university has two recruitment centers in the Rio Grande Valley, where recruiters make house calls to prospective students to assist in the application and financial aid process.
Of the minority students who were accepted this fall, 49 percent of Hispanic students and 43 percent of black students enrolled. That's a seven-point drop for both groups from two years ago. About 60 percent of admitted white students enrolled.
"The real problem is that, even with a larger number of applications and larger number of admits, the yield sank," said Alice Reinarz, Texas A&M's assistant provost for enrollment.
At the University of Texas at Austin, Hispanics make up 20 percent of the freshman class, up from 18 percent two years ago. Black students make up 6 percent, compared with 5 percent in 2005.
But A&M officials said their efforts are working. Two high schools in Laredo, where the newest recruitment center is located, are among the university's top three feeder schools for Hispanic freshmen.
Reinarz said the increase in minority applications and admissions shows the strategy is "on the right track."
To advance the drive for minority students, A&M plans a $125 million fundraising campaign to finance scholarships. The school also plans to increase the size of awards and to make financial-aid offers to prospective students earlier in the year, school officials said.
Andrew Garza, a senior studying biomedical science, said the university needs to do more to make itself known to Hispanics.
"A lot of them are choosing to stay home, but we're getting some," said Garza, executive director of the school's Hispanic Presidents Council. "It's going to take time."
State Rep. Garnet Coleman, a Houston Democrat and member of the Legislative Black Caucus, said Texas A&M's increases in minority enrollment were easy because so few attended the campus to begin with. He said the school sends a mixed message by not considering race in admissions.