In response to changing demographics in the Los Angeles area, UCLA Extension, which is supported entirely by student enrollment fees, is in the midst of a campaign to attract more Latinos.
Latinos make up about one-third of Los Angeles County's population, but they make up only about 3% of the more than 100,000 students who enroll annually in the wide variety of courses designed for both professional and personal enrichment, according to officials for the continuing education arm of UCLA.
One of the first steps taken by UCLA Extension to increase Latino enrollment was to hire Patricia Mendoza, a former special assistant in the UCLA Office of Student Affairs, to head its Latino outreach program.
Next, it broadened its minority community outreach scholarship program--Scholarships to Encourage Extension Diversity (SEED)--to include Latinos.
It is also offering more Latino-themed classes, such as the recent eight-week course, "Chicano Culture in America," and a two-session class that examined the exhibition "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, 1965 to 1985."
"We have to look at what we are offering for the Latino population in terms of career advancement and just plain interests," said Mendoza, who earned her doctorate in psychology from the University of Texas at Austin.
Mendoza said the campus' Westside location and poor promotion of UCLA Extension are believed by officials to be the primary reasons for low Latino enrollment in the courses, which cost from $75 to $900 each. "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.
UCLA extension offers more than 70 certificate programs, such as journalism, film, municipal solid waste management, recording arts and sciences, real estate and accounting. Students who complete the required academic work receive a certificate with the seal of the University of California. College credit toward degrees also can be earned with some of the classes.
A high school diploma is not required to enroll. However, students should have the ability to handle college-level courses and a strong knowledge of English. Very few courses are taught in Spanish. A variety of courses in English as a second language are offered.
Yolande Adelson, an associate dean who is overseeing the SEED scholarships, said the program started last spring with black students. This fall it was extended to both Latinos and Asians.
Community groups or companies identify applicants for the program. UCLA Extension selects the winners and pays the equivalent of 90% of their tuition costs, up to $270 per course. The community group pays the remaining 10%. The scholarship recipients must be legal residents and enroll in a certificate program.
TELACU (The East Los Angeles Community Union), a community development corporation, was one of the first Latino groups to participate in the program.
"We think it is a great opportunity for our employees to better themselves," said Marci Ramirez, TELACU's manager of corporate communications. "It's very refreshing to see UCLA say it is willing to subsidize the costs."
Emilio Rodriguez, an assistant scholarship coordinator at TELACU and a student sponsored by his employer, said he welcomes the financial assistance to further his education.
"I hope to go to graduate school, and I see this as a transition," said Rodriguez, who is taking classes in urban planning. "Even before SEED, I was looking to go to UCLA for graduate work."
Both Ramirez and Rodriguez said the distance for many Latinos living in the Eastside is a small sacrifice. "The opportunity is so great that you look at the transportation situation and people just set that apart," Ramirez said. "I don't think people will hesitate just because of the commute."
Although some classes are offered downtown at 1100 S. Grand Ave., Mendoza said the challenge will be to attract more people to the Westwood campus because the bulk of the classes in certified programs are offered there.
She hopes to do that by also offering more Latino-oriented classes, such as the class on "Chicano Culture in America."
"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."
Among the Latino-related courses that will be offered during the winter quarter, which starts Jan. 5, is "Marketing and Advertising Effectively to the Hispanic Consumer." Information about UCLA Extension is available at (213) 825-8261.