Making Marquette More Diverse

To attract Latino students, university links to a network of Catholic high schools, builds transfer relationships with community colleges, and adds Spanish-speaking staffers.

May 8, 2017
 
Marquette

Yield always matters, but sometimes it is a subset of yield that may be most important to a college.

This year Marquette University had 2,056 deposits on May 3 (it prefers this date for comparison purposes, not the May 1 date common elsewhere). That's up 2 percent from a year ago.

But what John M. Baworowsky, vice president for enrollment management, is really excited about are the numbers of Latino students. About a year ago, Marquette set itself a goal of becoming designated a Hispanic-serving institution within a decade. That would require, among other things, that at least a quarter of undergraduates are Latinos. Last year, Marquette was about halfway there, with Latino students making up 13 percent of the entering class. The goal was to go up by one percentage point a year. But this year, the entering class is 16 percent Latino, far exceeding the 14 percent goal.

For Marquette, diversifying has both practical and idealistic parts. From a pragmatic perspective, the university has traditionally drawn its students from largely white Roman Catholic families in Wisconsin and neighboring states. But many students and families are less focused today than in previous generations on going to a college that reflects their faith. And both national and Roman Catholic demographics see sharp growths in the Latino population. The university's Jesuit ideals also call it to seek out those who could benefit but might not automatically land in Milwaukee.

As Baworowsky describes the strategies used by Marquette, they are part "go where the students are" and part a willingness to change the university in ways that will make Latino students and their families feel more welcome.

Of the former, the university is using its Jesuit ties to build relationships with the Cristo Rey Network of 32 Catholic high schools in urban areas around the United States, all serving low-income students, and many of which have large minority populations.

But many Latino young people will never enroll at a private high school, and may be unlikely to enroll at any four-year institution right out of high school, Baworowsky said. So that means building up relationships with community colleges.

Next year, the university will add a Chicago recruiter to the one already there. The new position will focus on City Colleges of Chicago, which has large black and Latino populations. "We're only going to really achieve our goals with a transfer population" in addition to a traditional-age population, Baworowsky said. (While Marquette is focused on Latino students, it is also seeing gains among black students. Of this year's 2,056 deposits, 120 are from black students, up from 105 in last year's class.)

At the university, Baworowsky is staffing in ways that will attract more Latino students. That has meant adding Spanish-speaking counselors in both admissions and financial aid. That's important, he said, because "all the research on Latino students shows that college is a family decision," not just that of the student enrolling. Parents need to be part of the process and feel welcome, he said.

Likewise, he said, a key measure of success is recruiting students who will do well academically. This year, the ACT composite average for all students was 27, about one-tenth of a point up from last year. The Latino average was 24.7, but that was also up one-tenth of a point from the prior year. (Those figures put Marquette ahead of national averages for all groups, and with a smaller gap between Latino and all students than is the case nationally.)

To achieve all of these goals does mean spending more. Baworowsky said that the discount rate, which he declined to disclose, is up about one-tenth of a point this year. He said he is "never comfortable" with the discount rate, but that it is "manageable." He also said it is a reality that recruiting more minority students means recruiting more students with substantial financial need. That's OK with him, "when we are attracting more and attracting students with better academics," he said.

 

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