More Latinos Enrolling, Staying Longer at Community Colleges Across Connecticut


By Danny Contreras
As significant as rising enrollment numbers are at state community colleges for Latino students, even more encouraging is the number of them staying in school and not dropping out. It also appears that only 1 in 5 Latinos are ready to take college courses.
Latest data reveals that Latino students are applying to more community colleges in Connecticut following a small slump of applicants between 2002 and 2007.
Connecticut has 12 community colleges, many of which house a large amount of minority students. According to the latest statistics provided by the System of Connecticut Community Colleges,  the 2007 percentage of minority students at all community colleges was 33.1%; with Hispanics making up 13.8% of the total minority population. Black students and Asian students make up 15.6% and 3.4% respectively.
The increment in Latino residents has seen a surge of applicants at community colleges. Peter Harris, director of enrollment management at Manchester Community College, explained via email that while 65 percent of MCC’s students report their ethnicity as White, the proportion of Latino students has increase over the past 10 years.
“Fall 2011 marks the first time that Latino students have out-numbered Black students in the time we’ve been collecting this information,” said Harris. According to his statistics, the percentage of Latino students at MCC is 15%, compared to Black students who are at 14%.
Census figures show Puerto Ricans make up the largest demographics of Latinos in the state with 252,972 people describing themselves that way. The median age of female Hispanics is 28 years old, while male come at 26 years old.
In agreement with his colleague at MCC, David C. England dean of institutional effectiveness and outreach at Tunxis Community College, said that Latino enrollment at TCC has steadily increased from 9.3% in 2006 to 13.2% in 2011. The surge jumped the Latino population at Tunxis from 340 to 625.
In addition to an increasing number of applicants in the Latino population, retention rates have also improved. Capital Community College in Hartford, reported a Hispanic population of 29.7% with a retention rate of 43.8% from 2006. MCC provided more up-to-date information about their retention rates with overall retention rates for Latino students at 56%, and 81% from fall 2011 to spring 2011.
Harris attributed this rise in retention rates to more emphasis being paid to “renewed focus on tutoring, advising and mentoring for all students, and for minority students in particular through the Brother to Brother and Sister to Sister program.” Tunxis Community reported similar rates with 81% retention rates from fall to Spring and 59% from fall to fall.
Harris explained, however, that while retention rates are up and the trend seems very optimistic, they may not necessarily reflect on the readiness of Latino students,
“Connecticut’s ‘achievement gap between minority and white students has been very visible in the placement of these new students into MCC and math and English classes. While the majority of new students need some type of developmental work, less than 20% of minority students arrive college ready, vs. about 40% of white students. Note, however, that Hispanic, White and Black students appear to be trending upwards in the percent that are college-ready.”
An important aspect of a college education in the Latino community is the classes offered at community colleges. England explained that at Tunxis many Latinos choose General Studies, Criminal Justice, and Business Administration as their intended majors.
Meanwhile at MCC, the Liberal Arts and Sciences are generally the area of choice for Latino students. That includes majors such as psychology, sociology, biology, and the languages as part of their programs.
Many of the colleges emphasize their recruitment at Latino students through commercials on major Spanish networks such as Univision and Telemundo. Tunxis has published advertisements in Identidad Latina, a Spanish language newspaper, however, “because of budgets cuts, we are currently doing very little advertising,” according to England.
At MCC however, recruitment is mainly done by appearing in-person at many target places such as Andover, Bolton, Columbia and East Hartford in addition to Hartford, Manchester and Rockville.