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Sam Houston State University's growing diversity, Hispanic enrollment

SHSU is delivering services to set first-generation students up for success.

HOUSTON — Demographics have shifted across the state of Texas in the past decade with significant growth among the Hispanic population.

Sam Houston State University started noticing a change in enrollment in 2015. By 2020, Hispanic students represented more than 25% of the student body.

"We are a majority-minority institution," SHSU Chief Diversity Officer Jeanine Bias said. "Actually, 50% of students identify as students of color."

There are 21,000 undergraduate students at Sam Houston State and Hispanic students represent 26% of the population and are the second largest demographic group on campus.

This summer, Sam Houston State University received federal designation as a "Hispanic Serving Institution," a higher education campus where Hispanics represent at least 25% of the undergraduate population. This designation makes federal money for support programs and facilities available to better serve this sector of the demographic.

"It's a noticeable and welcome change," KHOU 11 News anchor and Sam Houston State University graduate Mia Gradney said.

She went back to campus to interview students.

Gabriel Ramos is a freshman honors student from Fulshear. He said he loves college life at Sam Houston State. He's yet to get homesick but said home is where the heart is for him.

"Family is a very big part of my culture. So, I always have a sense of needing to make my family proud," Ramos said. "So, it's definitely one of the main drivers that pushes me to do well in school."

"It's the pressure," graduate student Jaime Peña said. "You're expected to get a bachelor's degree because our parents or guardians sacrificed all their hard work and their potential education to give us the life."

Peña heads up the First-Generation Center at Sam Houston State University. It's also new to campus. He counsels students from different cultural backgrounds whose parents did not earn a college degree.

"I helped a Colombian student, and she told me about the culture shock and how different it is being in Texas to Colombia," Peña said.

The transition can be overwhelming. Hispanic students are met with higher college dropout rates.

"It's not just recruiting the students, but having them graduate ... retaining them through four, sometimes five years, but making sure it's about their experience to completion," Bias said.

Ramos is just getting started with his studies in forensic chemistry. Although he's just beginning, he can't wait for his dreams to ultimately manifest and one day work for the FBI. In the meantime, he said he's where he belongs and made to feel that way, too.

Other Hispanic Serving Institutions within the Texas State University System include Lamar State College Port Arthur, Sul Ross University and Texas State University.

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