LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A southwest Arkansas community college has earned the federal designation of being a "Hispanic-serving institution," becoming what officials say is the first school in the state with such a title.

The U.S. Department of Education recently awarded the designation to Cossatot Community College of the University of Arkansas. The new title means at least a quarter of the institution's students are Hispanic, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported .

The college set out in 2011 to increase its Hispanic enrollment to better represent the De Queen community. Hispanic residents made up more than half of De Queen's population in fall 2010, but only about 11 percent of the school's students.

Part of that initiative included hiring staff who represent the community, as well as hosting informational sessions in English and in Spanish, according to the school's chancellor, Steve Cole.

"The first thing in recruiting is that if you're going to try to impact a certain group of peoples, it makes sense if you can speak the language, address their cultures because they're different," he said. "If you can do those things and have experienced those things, then you're going to be more successful because you can talk to the students and their families."

With the new designation, Cossatot officials are now looking at grant funding for development of a dual-credit, high school bridge program with the goal of improving college readiness for Hispanic students.

No other college or university in Arkansas has even 20 percent of its total student population identifying as Hispanic, according to fall 2017 enrollment data from the state Department of Higher Education.

"I suspect that we'll be the only Hispanic-serving institution in the state for many, many years," Cole said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, http://www.arkansasonline.com