By Stephen Case – firstname.lastname@example.org – Staff Writer
As tuition rises for out-of-state students at UNC Asheville, there remains concern among students and faculty as to how the university will maintain its level of diversity.
“It’s a challenge that we face routinely here on campus,” said Lamar Hylton, director of the intercultural center and multicultural student programs. “It is a conversation that I have had many times with senior-level administrators and faculty members about how we can instill the best diversity on campus.”
Tuition for out-of-state undergraduate students will rise 6 percent to $18,537 annually for the upcoming 2014-15 school year, according to UNCA officials.
Hylton said these increases reflect a national trend of higher education costs and not the university raising prices because they want to.
“As the gap widens between lower-middle class and upper class, and higher education tends to trend upward in its cost, we are continually marginalizing the lower-middle class and the lower class,” Hylton said. “A large percentage of the makeup of those classes is underrepresented people.”
According to the 2012-13 university statistics, out-of-state students represent only 12.7 percent of the student body, while there are only 41 total international students at UNCA.
“That’s why I love UNCA so much,” said James Whalen, a senior at UNCA who works in the student office for student activities. “It meant that the affordability for people of all walks of life could come here, but the more everything gets cut, the harder that becomes, especially for out-of-state students, and that’s just one more way UNCA becomes less diverse.”
Even though many people on campus said they are happy with the amount of diversity UNCA has, not everyone is pleased.
“When I first came here, I had no idea about the amount of diversity here,” said Nick Belvin, a senior at UNCA. “I was honestly disappointed that it’s pretty much white people. I feel there is nothing but white people.”
Belvin said even if he had known about what he said he feels is a lack in diversity, he would not have changed his decision to come to UNCA. Belvin, a Charlotte native, said his hometown hosts a higher ethnically diverse population than Asheville.
According to officials with academic affairs, there are eight different diversity-aimed organizations at UNCA, including the Feminist Collective, the Muslim Student Association and the International Student Association. These organizations help to facilitate a welcoming environment for students from different backgrounds.
Hylton said UNCA doesn’t have a diversity scholarship due to the legal ramifications of offering a specific scholarship for a specific demographic of people, but the university is working on trying to create one with certain programs already in place.
Even as tuition increases for out-of-state students, it remains cheaper than most schools in the country, Hylton said.
“Moving down South as an out-of-state student was incredibly cheaper than staying in-state,” said Matthew Thorp, a junior at UNCA and New Jersey native. “When I came here as an out-of-state student, I was paying roughly $25,000 a year, and to go to a public university in my own state, it was close to $45,000 a year.”
Thorp said UNCA was not on his list of school to attend initially, but visiting Asheville with his father as a junior in high school caused him to fall in love with the city. Thorp said he felt the school was in an amazing location with a really friendly environment.
As an out-of-state student, Thorp said he has his own ideas on how the university could more efficiently recruit students from different backgrounds and areas of the country.
He said he understands why UNCA likes to select from students in its own state, but hiring recruiters to travel to other states could increase diversity.
“That would such a different experience, going to your high school college fair and all of a sudden there is this random school from North Carolina there, and you can have that conversation with a person who is also an out-of-state student and get their perspective on it,” Thorpe said.