Iris Rodriguez feels welcome at Santa Fe College where her peers share her cultural background and she participates in programs that promote inclusivity.
“I am Hispanic and I haven’t had many struggles because a lot of the students around me and my classmates are Hispanic as well,” Rodriguez, a 19-year-old SFC musical theatre sophomore, said. “And honestly, it’s a pretty good environment for Hispanic people.”
A rise in SFC’s non-white student population contributes to this environment. Over the past three years, the college experienced a rise in students of all ethnicities. The students and staff attribute this increase in diversity to the college’s inclusive campus events and organizations.
“Santa Fe promotes diversity during heritage months like Hispanic Heritage Month, Black History Month, Asian American and so on and so forth,” Rodriguez said.
The Santa Fe College Fact Book provides summaries of enrollment trends by both term and year, beginning as early as Fall 2019 with data up to Fall 2022.
In 2020, SFC saw an overall decline in enrollment numbers, which dropped by 1,871 students between Fall 2019 and Fall 2020. Since then, enrollment numbers have begun to steadily rise, according to the fact book.
The percentage of non-white students enrolled at SFC has increased slightly since the fact book’s first report. The percentage of non-white students grew 3% between Fall 2019 and Fall 2022.
The change means hundreds of new students roaming campus.
Jay Anderson has worked at the college for over six years and serves as the assistant to the SFC president. The increase in diversity was substantial even year-to-year, he said.
“We have more than 3,200 students who are Hispanic and Latino,” Anderson said. “Last year, we had just a hair under 3,000 Hispanic and Latino students.”
The Hispanic student population grew about 13% between Fall 2019 and Fall 2022.
While Hispanic student enrollment may have increased the most, Anderson said the college’s student population continues to become more diverse as a whole.
“I believe pretty much every ethnic demographic is up in enrollment this year, as opposed to last year, as we get to get more and more students coming back to the college and taking classes again,” Anderson said.
Alanis Gonzalez, a 21-year-old SFC alumna, spent three years at SFC to obtain an associate degree in art history. While studying there, she noticed SFCs efforts to promote diversity in the student population.
“Santa Fe generally tried to reach out to different communities including international, lower-income, first-generation and non-traditional students that expands the range of people that come study there,” she said.
One factor in SFC’s success is its inclusion programs like Free to Learn, which allows staff to bring wider interest across varying demographics, Gonzalez said.
Now a graduate of the college, she said SFC serves as a model for other academic institutions working to increase diversity.
“I think in order to expand diversity in academic institutions you need to include beyond racial and ethnic demographics but also expand to include people of various ages, levels of income and general life experiences,” she said.
Some SFC students believe the change comes from the college’s wide array of clubs and its promotion of cultural events.
Gabriela Velasco, an 18-year-old SFC theatre sophomore, is involved in a variety of student organizations, including the Hispanic Organization of Latino Activities, which are all available to welcome students, she said.
“I have seen a few clubs for people who come from other countries,” Velasco said. “I’ve also seen the HOLA club, which is a club to learn Spanish. I do feel that there is a lot of diversity at Santa Fe.”
Furthermore, SFC’s student population is shown to be diverse in other ways beyond ethnicity.
“It’s also diverse in age groups as well,” Rodriguez said. “You see a lot of young people that are like 18-19, but also you see older people that might be going back to school, getting their A.A. or whatever, that are more in their 30s or 40s.”
For Rodriguez, the campus’ secure atmosphere and welcoming environment contributed heavily to the increase in diversity the college saw in recent years.
“I find Santa Fe to be a very safe environment for all kinds of people,” Rodriguez said, “No matter who you are, or what you identify as, or how old you are, you can find a safe space. Student resources are open to all kinds of people and are very helpful as well.”
Contact Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @BaileyDiem.
Bailey Diem is a first-year journalism major at UF and is the Santa Fe Reporter for The Alligator for Fall 2023. When not reporting, Bailey can be found playing guitar or getting lost in a book.