Key Coverage

Why Appalachian Colleges Are Recruiting Hispanics

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.

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.

This same dynamic is occurring to some extent or another nationwide. The proportion of students in kindergarten through 12th grade nationwide that is Hispanic has increased to 25 percent from 19 percent since 2003, while the black, non-Hispanic population has dropped to 16 percent, and the white, non-Hispanic population to 50 percent from 59 percent. By 2060, more kindergarten-through-high-school students will be Hispanic than any other race or ethnicity—38 percent—while the proportion that is white drops to a third, based on U.S. Census figures cited in a University of Texas, San Antonio study.