Fresno State President Joseph Castro says he wants to double the number of American Indian students enrolled at the university by 2016, reversing the tide on a trend that’s shown a sharp decline in native students since 2010.
Castro made the announcement Monday during a speech for faculty at the Save Mart Center.
The push is part of Castro’s new American Indian Recruitment and Resource Initiative, which will include partnerships with local schools and tribal agencies to increase college access to young American Indians.
Castro has offered few details about the program so far, but says he’s committed to doubling the university’s current American Indian population — currently 82 students — to 164 within the next few years.
Enrollment has steadily dropped since 2010, when about 134 native students took classes at Fresno State. Native students make up less than one half of 1% of the university’s student body today.
Castro said he first noticed the plunge in American Indian enrollment just after he was hired in 2013. He suspects the deepening recession caused many to choose cheaper options, noting “we did see decreases in some students going to college because of their concerns about cost.”
“Through the deepening of the relationships and increasing our credibility, we’ll become more of a first-choice destination for them,” he said during an interview after his speech.
He’s reaching out to tribal leaders, parents and students to find out how to best recruit more high school graduates. This school year only seven of the university’s 3,533 first-time freshmen are American Indian. According to 2013 U.S. Census figures, 1.1% of Fresno County residents are American Indian.
The university’s social work education department is making its own go at attracting native students. On Monday, department chair Virginia Rondero Hernandez announced the department is recruiting students with an interest in child welfare, with the hope that those who study to receive a bachelor’s or master’s degree will do field work or internships with tribal agencies.