The Hispanic Tsunami Entering California Colleges

Created: 29 August, 2018
Last update: 27 July, 2022

By Raoul Lowery Contreras

Hispanics are surging into California public colleges setting enrollment records every semester attracted by affordable quality higher education.

Concurrently, California public colleges are being flooded by applicants from all over the world despite the U.S. college-eligible population shrinking.

When the deadline for September 2018 applications for admission to San Diego State University (SDSU) closed, 96,000 applications were submitted, a record.

Unfortunately, SDSU could only accept 10,000 new students because there is no more room at the campus. The challenge is made greater by the record 3.73 grade point average of entering freshmen that limits entry of students with otherwise solid grades.

Because San Diego State University is so popular and tough to get into, it doesn’t come close to Hispanic student percentages at other California State University (CSU) campuses. For example, Cal-State Los Angeles enrolls 64 percent Hispanic students, Cal-State-San Bernardino has 62.6 percent; Cal-State Dominguez Hills 59 percent, Cal-State Stanislaus 51 percent, Cal State-Fresno 50 percent.

San Diego State with 10,000 Hispanic students has 30 percent Hispanic students, 25 percent fewer than the California State University average.

The entire 23 campus California State University enrolls 40 percent Hispanic students; the numbers are astonishing – 154,000 Mexican Americans and 39,000 other Hispanics for a grand total of 193,000. 51 percent of all California high school graduates were Hispanic in 2016. That year, 71 percent of California Hispanic high school graduates enrolled in college compared to 49 percent in 2000.

Of all college degrees awarded in 2016 in California, 50 percent were awarded by the California State University system. It is not an exaggeration that the California State University and its 23 campuses are the keys to educational advancement for the entire California Hispanic population and California itself.

Yet, San Diego State University, the jewel of the CSU system, can’t take any more students. Every square-inch of its 238 acre campus is built out. Only a tiny number of the 400,000 Hispanic San Diego county residents can enroll despite the huge surge in state Hispanic college enrollment. There isn’t room. Even if the 18-year-old is an honor graduate with a 3.6 grade point average, there isn’t room because so many applicant students have a 3.73 grade point average.

Coming years will be worse for local San Diego and California Hispanics looking to enroll in college. While most can’t afford to leave the city for college. They can afford SDSU, they can ride the trolley to school. They don’t need a car to attend SDSU if they live close to the South Bay, East County, Southeast San Diego trolley lines. As it happens, the San Diego Hispanic community mostly surrounds those Trolley lines.

Commuting to SDSU for Hispanics is facile and not expensive. But if there is no room, that and an affordable tuition don’t matter.

There is a solution.

San Diego’s NFL Chargers left for Los Angeles leaving its home Mission Valley stadium and surrounding acres of parking lot empty.

A private out-of-town group stepped up and presented a plan to “lease” the stadium property for 99-years.

The hedge fund investors have few San Diego roots. None attended San Diego State which has over 300,000 alumni.

A proposed alliance with San Diego State ended when it became clear to San Diego State that the proposed “deal” was designed to maximize profit for the group, at the expense of San Diego State.

The out-of-town investors are trying to control hundreds of centrally located real estate acres for a hundred years during which they could make hundreds of millions of dollars with high rise hotels, another shopping mall, a soccer team (maybe) and condominiums that would not create a single new classroom for crowded San Diego State, minutes away by trolley.

On the other hand, locals – many SDSU alumni — called Friends of SDSU have come up with a proposal (SDSU WEST) that would authorize the city to sell the property to SDSU for “fair-market value,” allow San Diego State to construct a new stadium designed and built by the University itself, an expansive river park, housing for staff, faculty and students.

Additionally, using out-of-state university developed research facilities as models, a research-oriented development is being discussed. Similar development over the past 50 years by University of California San Diego (UCSD) staff and faculty has created thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in investment around the UCSD campus. Qualcomm, anyone?

It could happen again. This time with local input and development. Furthermore, the growing Hispanic college-bound population will have a place to study it doesn’t have now, nor would it have if the out-of-town Soccer City group convinces enough people to vote for its plan.

Lastly, of course, the SDSU expansion would not occur overnight but today’s third grade Hispanic child would have a university seat just a trolley-ride away when he/she enrolls in a 45,000-50,000 student body at San Diego State University.

Contreras is the author of “The Armenian Lobby & U.S. Foreign Policy” (Berkeley Press) and “The Mexican Border: Immigration, War and a Trillion Dollars in Trade” (Floricanto Press); he formerly wrote for the New American News Service of the New York Times Syndicate; he is a SDSU alumnus – an Aztec for life. Contreras is also a paid consultant for SDSU WEST.