A recent study revealed that more than one-half of Hispanic students choose colleges and universities that are more affordable and closer to home, which will typically push universities like Penn State to the bottom of the list.
This fall, Hispanics make up 4.5 percent of the university's population, said Anne Rohrbach, interim executive director of admissions.
In fall 2006, Hispanics made up 3.1 percent of the population.
The study, which was released Aug. 17 by Excelencia in Education, a group focused on Hispanic education, concluded that the factors Latinos take into account when choosing a college are different from students of other backgrounds.
"These students that have higher needs are attending universities with lower resources," said Deborah Santiago, vice president of Excelencia in Education and author of the study. "There is an opportunity here for universities like Penn State to do more outreach and understand more about the different characteristics that could impact Hispanic and Latino students' college choices."
Although the number of Hispanics at Penn State is relatively low, the university has made progress in Hispanic student admissions and enrollment, Rohrbach said.
"The number of Hispanics who have applied to Penn State has increased over the last four years," she said. "But we are still working hard to work with underrepresented groups in higher education. We have a recruitment center in Philadelphia that works with early outreach to Hispanic students in high school."
The Student Minority Advisory and Recruitment Team (SMART) is a student organization that assists the Minority Admissions Office with minority recruitment.
"We focus on the minority population, particularly African American and Latino students," said SMART President Christopher Talley. "We reach out to Hispanic high school students and bring them to Penn State to give them a feel for the campus, and we focus on urban cities along the East Coast."
Although the university is making efforts, increasing the Hispanic population at Penn State can't be done in a night.
"I don't have a magical solution as to how we can increase the Hispanic population," said Matthew Restall, director of Latin American studies. "But I know that there are a lot of faculty and students at Penn State who are working hard to recruit more Hispanic students to our campus."
Another study conducted by Santiago in 2005 revealed that Hispanic students are the ethnic group least likely to receive financial aid. This factor -- along with proximity to urban communities in which a large majority of the Hispanic population resides -- affects college decisions as well, she said.
Six percent of higher education institutions are considered Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), which are defined as public institutions that are comprised of 25 percent or more Hispanic students. These universities are in areas such as Florida, Texas and California.
The institutions, which are mostly smaller colleges and universities, do not provide students with the same opportunities that a renowned university, such as Penn State, could provide, according to the study.
"The responsibility is not only on the universities but also the students," Santiago said. "It is up to the individual to base their college decision on not just what is convenient but what is best for their future."