The opportunity to recruit Latino students should be important to Christian colleges. Latinos are forecasted to be 30% of the population in the U.S. by 2060, belonging to the more than 50% majority-minority, according to the U.S. Census. They have become the largest group of color in the U.S. and the highest represented in U.S. higher education. Currently, fifty percent of kindergarteners in the U.S. are minorities , with Hispanics comprising the largest share , yet they are still the least educated (although this is changing).
What are we to do with such a growing population and one that seems to have every desire to get educated? Which, by the way befits all Americans to be concerned, considering it will affect the future economy of the U.S.
The answer to that question is that Christian higher education has a unique advantage at the present moment. This advantage is that Latinos are very spiritual and would love nothing more than to attend a Christian college or university where their beliefs, traditions, and customs are valued.
The following three guidelines are just the tip of the iceberg on how Christian schools can serve Latino students and be missional about it.
Latino students desire to see themselves in their school’s leadership
Many people grow up aspiring to be like someone else. For many, it was their parents or pastors, uncles or aunts. Some were influenced by community leaders who demonstrated persuasion among the people and mobilized them to get certain initiatives accomplished. Even Jesus declared that He only did what He saw the Father do (John 5:19).
Latinos are very relational and are motivated by their childhood dream of becoming like someone they admire. For those Latinos in college, it is the leaders they see doing the ministry they seek to fulfill. Hence, to recruit Latino students, Christian colleges and universities need to make sure that they have Latino leaders in their staff, faculty, and administration. Colleges send an unspoken message to students and their families when they only see Latinos cleaning the college or cooking a meal in the cafeteria.
Latino students want to know that there are leaders in the university that can relate to their cultural needs and issues, especially since many are the first to attend college in their family. Seeing themselves in the university leadership displays a message that “you are valued” and “we believe in you.”
To recruit Latino students, create a diverse and welcoming campus environment
Businesses and secular institutions of higher education seemed to have received the memo a long time ago that diversity produces creativity and innovation. For some reason, Christian higher education has been sluggish at attaining diversity on their campuses, whether in the student body or in leadership. However, the present times are calling for re-imagining the way things should be.
Embracing African Americans, Asians, Latinos, Anglos, and others also creates a friendly campus environment and a place where future leaders learn from one another. Besides, this is what the real world has become—a more multicultural and global environment. Should not Christian colleges reflect the same?
To retain Latino students, coaching them is imperative for future success
For many Latino students, a college experience will be a culture shock. Many are breaking new ground and do not have models from which to compare, even in their own families. This is why it was previously stated that having Latino faculty, staff, and administrators is crucial in Latino student success.
Latinos are very relational and are accustomed to being around family members or communities back home. While other students may be more comfortable with being away from family and the community, therefore making the college experience feasible, Latino students are used to being leaders at home, sometimes working full-time while in high school or college to support the family.
Most Latino families are not acquainted with the demands of college life and expect their young Latino scholars to keep up with chores and bringing home additional income while attending college. This is one of the few reasons why Latinos students drop out.
Latino leaders in colleges will be able to speak to the cultural issues that other academic leaders may not be prepared to tackle. Consistent coaching and advising will be imperative for the success of Latino students, as well as programs and policies that help the Latino student to become accustomed to university life. A college that wants to recruit Latino students should also consider how to retain them.
Recruiting and retaining Latino students will be a large part of Christian colleges’ and universities’ future existence. It is no secret that enrolment continues to decline while many question the value of higher education. This is an opportune time for Christian higher education to be missional in its outreach and to empower a future group of young leaders that desperately need to be educated holistically.
A good start for Christian colleges and universities to recruit and retain Latino students is to
- hire Latino leadership,
- create a diverse and welcoming campus environment, and
- provide continuous coaching for Latino students.
Peter Rios is an Associate Director of Program Support at the DeVoe School of Business, and CEO and Co-Founder of Robust Innovative Organizational Solutions. A company that focuses on empowering people and their organizations through strategic foresight.