Administrators at Santa Rosa Junior College briefly had a mystery on their hands this semester.
The number of white students at the college unexpectedly fell more than 11 percent from 17,200 in fall 2010 to 15,230 this fall. Meanwhile, the percentage of Latinos at the school increased by 10 percent.
Officials were stumped by the contrasting numbers until they realized they were consequences of the decision last spring to gut the school's older adult program, which draws an overwhelmingly white audience. Three thousand fewer seniors essentially meant nearly that many fewer white students.
It's an explanation that experts say provides a picture of demographic trends shaping the college — and the state.
Across California, an older, mostly white generation is giving way to a more racially diverse emerging one, said David McCuan, associate professor of political science at Sonoma State University. And SRJC, as the recent numbers suggest, is following suit.
"The community is changing," said Ricardo Navarrette, SRJC's vice president of student services. "As our overall population changes in Sonoma County, it's our mission to change with that population."
Obviously, the climbing Latino enrollment at SRJC is rooted in Sonoma County's changing makeup as the Latino population grows in numbers and the white one decreases.
In 2000, census figures show Latinos made up 17 percent of the county population. By 2010, that number had increased to 25 percent, a 47 percent increase.
The Latino proportion of SRJC enrollment has risen even faster, going from 12.7 percent in fall 2001 to 20.2 percent now, a 59 percent increase.
Students in counselor Geoff Navarro's Puente class Monday morning said there were more reasons behind the increased Latino enrollment than just population growth.