As of 2018, 7.5 percent of all students enrolled are Hispanic, a record high for UNCA.
By Kendall Anthony-Busbee/ The Blue Banner

Asheville, North Carolina- In the last 20 years, UNC Asheville’s Hispanic student enrollment rose 556 percent, according to enrollment data.

“It’s a positive thing, not only for Latinos, but for North Carolina and the country as a whole,”. Said Paola Jaramillo, co-founder and executive director of Enlace Latino NC. “But I can imagine there are other groups in our society that are frightened or worried about this.”

The university’s Hispanic student enrollment rose 194 percent in just the last decade.

Hispanic Student enrollment

“This increase not only signifies that they are graduating high school, but that they are also continuing their education at the university level,” Jaramillo said. “This translates to a better future for them, their families, the community, the state and the country. It translates into economic development and a better society.”

As of 2018, 7.5 percent of all students enrolled are Hispanic, a record high for UNCA.

“In a primarily white space like UNCA, minority students can struggle to find community. The numbers show that Hispanic students are the largest ethnic minority on campus,” said Rita Martínez, a student at UNCA and president of HOLA. “This might surprise a lot of us because we don't necessarily see that when we look around.”

According to Jaramillo, the increase can be attributed to the first generation of Hispanic immigrants that came to North Carolina in the ‘90s, whose children are now completing their high school educations, eager to continue at the university level.

“These are kids, U.S. citizens, that were born in this state and they’ve had the opportunity to know their career options or opportunities since they were young,” Jaramillo said. “They know how difficult it was for their parents and they are taking advantage of the opportunity to obtain a professional career.”

Jaramillo also attributes the rise of Hispanic student enrollment at UNCA to the anti-immigrant rhetoric seen in recent years, in combination with DACA, or deferred action of childhood arrivals.

“At least 24,000 kids in the state have benefited from DACA, and although they can’t be granted citizenship through the program, it has helped greatly, especially with scholarships being available and other means to obtain a higher education,” Jaramillo said.

Steve McKellips, UNCA's senior director of admissions and financial aid, recognizes many different factors as attributions to the massive growth seen with UNCA’s Hispanic student enrollment in recent years.

“There are a tremendous number of variables that influence college-going decisions in all families, so it would be difficult to identify any singular or nuanced interpretations of what factors influence decision-making behaviors in any comprehensive group of students,” McKellips said.

UNC Asheville's white student population has dropped from 87 percent in 2008 to 76 percent in 2018. While this shows a decrease of 11 percent, white students continue to make up the majority of students.

Hispanic students

“Minority students at UNCA are frequently mentioned, but rarely heard from,” Martínez said. “Whether it's comments about the diversity on campus or the lack thereof, the conversation has still managed to exclude minority voices in a meaningful way.”

According to the data, UNCA’s minority student enrollment increased 107 percent since 2008. Out of all students enrolled in 2018, 24 percent are minority students.

“This is a necessary conversation to have, and UNCA needs to be a safe space to have it. As a minority student, I think a universal experience is genuinely wanting to reach out and find where everybody else like you is at, but not knowing how,”. Martínez said. “We deserve the floor, not only to connect and share resources, but also to educate and contribute to the campus community. Our presence deserves more than basic recognition.”

McKellips said the university's commitment to providing a diverse educational community of students, faculty and staff as a pillar of its mission and core values.

“Continued growth in diversity is very important to UNC Asheville because diverse ways of thinking is inherently an asset to our liberal arts and sciences commitment,”. McKellips said. “Having diverse opinions continues to influence the learning patterns of others.”


Comunicadora social-periodista colombiana. Emprendedora y cofundadora de Enlace Latino NC donde es la directora ejecutiva.

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