As white enrollment sags, colleges turn to new market: Hispanics

Kylie Lacey's picture

Tennessee, like fellow Appalachian states Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, is home to one of the fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the country, much younger, on average, than the region’s white and black populations, and with larger families.

This has not escaped the attention of the region’s colleges, most of which have historically drawn heavily for their students on the region’s white population.

But that population is shrinking, said Deborah Santiago, vice president for policy at Excelencia in Education, a nonprofit that advocates for Hispanics in higher education.

“It’s in their economic self-interest to learn how to attract and retain Latinos,” Santiago said.

Doing this will not be easy. Limited experience with college, lower household incomes, and other factors have made Hispanics less likely to enroll in and succeed at college. But as universities across the country contend with flat and even declining enrollments, they, too, are starting to go after the biggest growth market: Hispanics.

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