Demographic shifting of college access and success influences the future of NMSU

May 26, 2011 by Cristobal Rodríguez, Ph.D., assistant professor, College of Education @NMSU

On March 16, 2011, “New Mexico’s Leading Newspaper,” the Albuquerque Journal, in its Wednesday morning edition reported on its front page, in center view and in massive bold print: “N.M. Hispanics Overtake Anglos.” Using the latest 2010 U.S. Census data, the Albuquerque Journal further reports that New Mexico’s population is now 46.3 percent Latino, 40.5 percent White, 8.5 percent American Indian, 1.7 percent Black, 1.3 percent Asian American, and 1.4 percent other/mixed.

While this demographic shift might present a scare for some, as the Albuquerque Journal rhetorically announces, the reality is that The Land of Enchantment has always benefited greatly from its diverse communities, and much is needed to pay-it-forward in serving these communities. Additionally, as communities in New Mexico are among one of the most segregated in the U.S., how might New Mexico State University capitalize on the demographic realities of the state and region, especially with a much larger Latino population percentage in southern New Mexico?

Cristobal Rodriguez

Cristobal Rodriguez

Implications of these demographic shifts and current research on college access/success, provide NMSU with an opportunity to lead the nation in serving diverse communities, and more importantly, the opportunity to influence overall development and growth for New Mexico through its roles and missions.

However, in order to move forward as a responsible institution, there are some realities that the NMSU community must come to terms with. First, understanding access and success in higher education varies in perception, especially varying widely based on intersecting assumptions of race, entitlement and property. In other words, the historical and dominant thought is that the college piece of the pie belongs to some over others based on perceptions of entitlement through merit and rights.

Secondly, and based on research by Marta Tienda and Sunny Xinchun Niu at Princeton University, the reality is that even when college admissions and financial-aid policies consider economic status and the segregated realities of communities in the U.S. Southwest, White students still hold a college enrollment, funding, and graduation advantage over all other groups. The dilemma is that communities in the U.S. Southwest not only reside in segregation, but diverse communities often have additional economic, social, linguistic and cultural exceptions in concentration within their public school settings, and education systems largely fail to adequately respond to these dynamics.

As New Mexico’s Land-Grant University, NMSU has the great responsibility of providing a public higher education, “in order to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life.” What this means for NMSU, one of three in the nation designated as a Carnegie Doctorate-Granting Research University, Land-Grant University, and Hispanic Serving Institution, is that there is real power in actuating these roles.

Actuating the NMSU mission of “serving the educational needs of New Mexico’s diverse population through comprehensive programs of education, research, extension education, and public service,” aspires us to improve access and success of all students. Alignment and actuation of these roles and missions, provide a promising outlook for NMSU and its communities.

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