Chico State sees rise in student diversity

Cross-Cultural Leadership Center Program Coordinator Katie Peterson. Photo courtesy of Cross-Cultural Leadership Center.

Chico State’s enrollment of students from a diverse mix of ethnic backgrounds is rising to its highest point in history, and continues to rise.

The biannual university census, a survey conducted to record students’ demographic and enrollment information, reported significant increases in many ethnicities to higher levels than ever before.

Chico State President Paul Zingg attributes the success in attracting a diverse population to program aimed at getting these students to consider Chico State.

African American undergraduate student enrollment has Chico State have also risen from 267 to 350 students, according to the census.

“Having 94 African-American incoming freshman is incredible,” he said. “That’s the most we’ve ever had. But that number pales in comparison to the amount of Hispanic students at Chico State.”

Hispanic undergraduate students have more than tripled in the last decade, increasing from 1,548 to 4,291, 26 percent of the student population.

This is the first year that Chico State will be eligible to apply for recognition as a Hispanic-serving institution, a federal program designed to assist colleges or universities in the United States that attempt to assist first generation, majority low income Hispanic students.

While increase in diversity enrollment is getting better, students from diverse backgrounds need strong leaders to support them and help acclimate to life on this campus, said Katie Peterson, program coordinator for the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center.

“We have a lot of first generation college students of color and they are not sure how to navigate the system,” she said.

The CCLC is currently understaffed and overwhelmed, Peterson said. In order to take the next step in working towards a equally-diverse campus, administrators need to take a step back and evaluate hiring practices in order to attract faculty that can continue to assist the ethnically-diverse campus Chico State is becoming.

“I think that it’s important to keep in mind that diversity isn’t just diversity of thought,” she said. “What we’re looking at in terms of diversity is a systematic oppression. There are certain identities that face institutional racism.”

Both Peterson and Zingg agreed that Chico State needs to provide competitive incentive to continue to attract and retain the best and brightest professionals who will continue to attract the brightest minds from all ethnicities.

Correction: The Orion incorrectly stated “In order to take the next step in working towards a equally-diverse campus, administrators need to take a step back and evaluate recruiting practices…” when Cross-Cultural Leader Center Program Coordinator Katie Peterson said “…hiring practices…” not recruiting practices.

David McVicker can be reached at [email protected] or @DavidPMcVicker on Twitter.