In recent years, William J. Brown, vice president of enrollment at Lebanon Valley College, in Annville, Pa., has seen more and more Hispanic students in his applicant pool. While visiting small towns in the eastern part of the state, he’s overheard more Spanish being spoken. And he’s had many conversations with local high-school counselors that confirmed what the numbers tell him: The demographics of the region’s high-school graduates are changing fast.
“There are a lot of Spanish-speaking folks in one-stoplight towns who weren’t there before,” Mr. Brown says. “We want to engage them.”
Although many Hispanic students have no problem communicating in English, Mr. Brown says, the same is not always true of their parents. So during a brainstorming session earlier this year, he and his colleagues decided that the college should translate parts of its admissions Web pages into Spanish. They asked a Spanish professor and several students to do the honors.
This spring, Lebanon Valley added a “Leer en Español” button to several Web pages. Clicking on the link takes visitors to Spanish versions of the pages that parents are most likely to seek, such as those that explain admissions requirements, costs of attendance, and how to visit the campus. Headers like “What We Look for Academically” have turned into “Lo que buscamos academicamente.”
It’s but one step in a continuing process of diversifying the predominantly white campus, Mr. Brown says. Over the years, Lebanon Valley has bolstered programming that recognizes various cultures, such as a series of events during Hispanic History Month. Mr. Brown has sought to diversify his staff (two of the college’s six admissions counselors are members of minority groups).
Hispanics, the largest minority in the nation, now represent the largest minority group of 18- to-24-year-olds on college campuses. In other words, Lebanon Valley’s Spanish Web pages are a sign of the times. In the coming years, “Leer en Español” links may well become ubiquitous among colleges that, like Lebanon Valley, have not traditionally served many Hispanic students.
“It’s always been competitive, and it’s not going to be less competitive,” Mr. Brown says of recruiting. “I expect that as our demographics continue to change, and everybody wants the same students, we’re going to have to go where we haven’t been before.”