Private colleges around here are recruiting Hispanic students. Who knew? And who knew Hickory was so well regarded by Reader's Digest? Maybe there's a market for ETSU here that we're ignoring. From The Hechinger Report.
Needing students, Appalachian colleges reach out to fast-growing Hispanic population
Janeth Barrera Cantu has spent most of her 18 years living in a cramped trailer in rural North Carolina with her three siblings and parents. Eight years ago, her father was deported to Mexico, where he was shot and killed, a crime that remains unsolved. For several years afterward, her mother, Maria, was left as the sole breadwinner for the family of five.
The trailer is just down the road from Hickory, a town Reader’s Digest named one of the 10 best places in America to raise a family and that business magazines have hailed for its entrepreneurial climate. That’s where Maria Cantu earns a living cleaning houses. She now has a boyfriend who helps raise the children; he works in a glove factory.
Among Hickory’s most picturesque landmarks is Lenoir-Rhyne University, a private liberal arts school with a leafy campus of stately brick buildings and well-kept, wide-open spaces. The evangelical Lutheran institution named in part for a Confederate Civil War officer remains more than two-thirds white, and costs $43,200 a year for tuition, room, and board. It’s less than four miles from the Paradise Valley Mobile Home Park, where the Cantus and other mostly Hispanic Catholic families live.
They might as well be in two different worlds. But now these two worlds are colliding.
More of the teenagers graduating from high schools in Appalachia look like Janeth Barrera Cantu, and fewer look like the middle- and upper-class whites from which local colleges and universities have historically drawn their enrollments. So Lenoir-Rhyne and other schools in the region have started trying to recruit Hispanics, who—like Barrera Cantu—increasingly want college educations.
“Liberal-arts colleges are in crisis,” said Doug Sofer, a history professor at another of these schools, Maryville College in Tennessee. Hispanics, Sofer said, “should be an obvious demographic target, and it’s in our own self-interest to figure this out.”
Six of the 10 states with the fastest-growing Hispanic populations in the country are in the Appalachian South, with their numbers of Hispanics up between 120 and 176 percent since 2000. They’re drawn by jobs in sectors ranging from food services to farming to furniture manufacturing.