The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



ND ranked high for Hispanic students

Karen Langley | Wednesday, April 19, 2006

A premier Hispanic American magazine ranked Notre Dame No. 13 on its 2006 listing of the “Top 25 Colleges for Latinos” – the fourth time the University has achieved a berth on the rankings since their debut in 1999.

Hispanic Magazine’s March issue featured the ranking, which is based upon each school’s academic excellence, student-to-faculty ratio, percentages of Hispanic faculty and students, cultural programs and availability of financial aid, among other factors.

University President Father John Jenkins noted Notre Dame’s strong appeal to Hispanics in his Oct. 11 address to the faculty. Jenkins said that compared to other top 20 universities, Notre Dame has had better-than-average growth in Hispanic faculty and student body.

Assistant Provost for Admissions Dan Saracino said such growth is promising, but in itself insufficient.

“[Growth] should be excellent,” he said. “And we’re not there yet. Notre Dame, as an outstanding Catholic university, should be a great place for Hispanic scholars and students whose faith is important to them.”

Hispanic students currently comprise nine percent of the undergraduate student body, and Saracino said the Office of Admissions hopes 11 percent of the incoming freshman class will be Hispanic. The recent admissions decisions resulted in the acceptance of 443 of the 1,199 Hispanic applicants, he said.

The Office of Admissions employs counselors to work specifically with underrepresented ethnic minority students, including Hispanic, African-American, Asian-American and Native American students. Saracino noted the special need to improve recruitment of African-American, Asian-American and Native American students.

“I believe we can still be successful in recruiting [these students],” he said. “We just need to work harder.”

Notre Dame’s Catholic affiliation gives Hispanics a “natural affinity” to the University, Saracino said. He added that though fewer African-American and Asian-American families are specifically Catholic, Notre Dame can still reach out to the religious nature of many of these families.

Saracino said Notre Dame’s appeal to Hispanic applicants has increased significantly over the past 10 years. He noted the increasing number of Hispanics in the student body and surrounding community, as well as the cultural presence shown in the campus mariachi band and weekly Spanish language Mass.

Notre Dame’s success in recruiting underrepresented minorities has also grown as a result of the University’s 1998 decision to meet 100 percent of students’ financial aid, Saracino said.

“If a student is outstanding enough to gain admission – no matter what their race, ethnicity or socio-economic background – we can make it happen,” he said.

Gilda Hernandez, president of the campus Hispanic group La Alianza, said Notre Dame’s attempts to diversify its student body may lead Hispanic applicants to look more favorably upon the University.

Hernandez was unsure if the ranking itself would have a substantive impact on Hispanic students, but said it might “offer ways to tend to the demands of the Latino community on campus.”

She said the recruitment of more Hispanic faculty members or the library’s acquisition of relevant books could be a positive result of the ranking.

All in all, Hernandez said Notre Dame’s attempts to provide a positive environment for Hispanic students has met with some success.

“I think it tries to [improve the environment for Hispanic students,]” she said. “It is very much a work in progress.”

She noted the positive impact of groups like the Institute for Latino Studies, which provides education about the U.S. Latino experience, and Latino Student Ministry, run through Campus Ministry.

Notre Dame’s efforts to increase diversity in its student body will continue to play a pivotal role in the University’s development, Saracino said.

“All students benefit from this commitment by Notre Dame,” he said. “The environment is enriched by a highly-gifted and diverse student body.”