Student cheers Julissa Calderon at Hispanic-Latinx Student Assembly

Alexia Yau, a 19-year-old UF natural resource conservation junior, cheers as Julissa Calderon, a Buzzfeed video producer and the keynote speaker at the UF Hispanic-Latinx Student Assembly, concludes her presentation.

More Latinx students are enrolled in universities than ever before in the United States, including UF. 

According to a comprehensive data analysis by the National Center for Education Statistics, more Latinx students have graduated from universities this decade than any previous one.

The number of Hispanic and Latinx students has increased from 11.16 percent in 2006 to 19.11 percent in 2018, according to the annual Fall cohort headcount. The next enrollment and demographics update is set to arrive in February.  

Steve Orlando, a UF spokesman, said in an email since 2006 the percentage of Hispanic and Latinx students has been steadily trending upward.

UF’s class of 2023 broke records and set new standards with their test scores and GPAs. Hispanic and Latinx students make up 19 percent of the class. 

The number of UF undergraduate, graduate and professional degrees awarded to Latinx students in the 2007-2008 school year was 1,505. That number has since jumped to 2,606 for the 2017-2018 school year.

Nationally, Latinx graduation rates have increased by 70 percent over the past decade. Enrollment numbers between the ages of 18-24 increased from 27 percent in 2017. More Latinx people in college earned a college degree from 2005 to 2017. 

Karina Fernandez, a 22-year-old UF international studies senior, is a co-fundraising chair of the Hispanic Student Association. She says HSA is a cultural safe space for her. 

“It reminds me of home,” she said.  

Fernandez has seen HSA grow over her time at UF. With the newly rebuilt La Casita on University Avenue, she anticipates that HSA will continue to gain traction among Latinx students on campus.

“As an almost UF graduate of Hispanic descent, it feels empowering to know that the Latinx community on campus has nearly doubled in the last decade,” she said. “I think it adds to the increasing diversity on campus and will hopefully make way for greater minority representation at UF and in the real world.”

La Casita, UF’s Institute of Hispanic-Latino Cultures, recently moved from a room in the Reitz Union to a brand new two-story building as a part of a $9.9 million project funded by the UF Capital Investment Trust Fund.

La Casita recently hosted its first class on Latinx studies in early January, which was taught by Nicholas Vargas, a UF professor. The class focuses on issues related to Latinx cultural identity and provides students with greater knowledge of how Latinx people have contributed to the foundation of the United States.

Camila Peralta, a 19-year-old UF anthropology freshman, loves the increasing diversity that comes along with an increase in Hispanic students attending UF.

Her parents went to local technical schools, and their experiences are not easily relatable to most college experiences today, she said. When Peralta received her admission to UF, her parents were overjoyed.

“The whole reason their families came to America was so that my parents and their children could go to college,” she said.

As a second-generation immigrant, Peralta says she can see her parents’ sacrifice for her success and opportunity.

“I’ve seen my dad cry twice and that was when my grandpa died and when I got into UF,” she said. 

Peralta is happy to know more and more Latinx students can enroll in great schools, not just at UF but globally, and hopefully make their parents as proud as she made her own. 

“I think it helps to know that there are things like HSA, La Casita and other cultural groups on campus that I can relate to,” she said. “Overall, I’d say interacting with other Latin students whether in clubs or in class is what really makes me feel connected.”

Contact Christopher Cann at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @chrstophercann.