UCLA Extension, the university's vast continuing-education arm, has long drawn its enrollment from its surrounding Westside population.
But changing demographics that point to an increasing Latino population in the Los Angeles Basin have prompted extension officials to reach across town to the East Side to maintain a steady student enrollment.
"We have to look at what we are offering for the Latino population in terms of career advancement and just plain interests," said Patricia Mendoza, a former special assistant in the UCLA Office of Student Affairs who heads the extension's Latino outreach program.
Mendoza said she believes there are two big reasons for the low Latino enrollment: the Westside location of the campus and poor promotion.
"We want the Latino community to know that although we are not located in an area that is traditionally Latino, we are sensitive to Latino concerns," she said. "We know that is one of the reasons that a lot of people are not familiar with what UCLA Extension offers."
About one-third of the region's population is Latino, but Latinos make up only about 3% of the more than 100,000 students who enroll annually in UCLA Extension courses, according to extension officials. Maintaining a steady enrollment is important because UCLA Extension does not receive any state aid and is supported almost exclusively by class fees.
Although some classes are offered in downtown Los Angeles and other satellite locations, Mendoza said the challenge will be to attract more Latinos to the Westwood campus, because the bulk of the classes in certified programs will be offered there.
She hopes to do that by offering more Latino-oriented classes, such as the eight-week course "Chicano Culture in America," which was offered in the fall quarter.
"The course cuts across different disciplines," Mendoza said. "We wanted to make it attractive for teachers, as well as for Latinos to have an opportunity to learn more about themselves."
For the spring quarter, which begins Jan. 7, UCLA Extension will be offering an advertising and marketing course on reaching the Latino market.
Officials hope to make the cost of attending extension courses easier by broadening its minority community outreach scholarship program--Scholarships to Encourage Extension Diversity (SEED)--to include Latinos.
Yolande Adelson, an associate dean who is overseeing the SEED program, said the program started last spring with black community organizations. This fall the program was extended to Latinos and Asians.
"My feeling is that either the (minority) community does not know about us or can't gain access to us," Adelson said. "The idea here is to join hands with community-based organizations to change that."