SALEM, Va. (WFXR) — Roanoke College has seen a huge growth in its Hispanic and Latinx student population, so it joined the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), becoming one of just a handful of higher education institutions in Virginia to partner with the non-profit.

Roanoke College senior Roge Lopez has watched the Hispanic community grow on campus.

“As I started Roanoke College there wasn’t that big a community of Hispanics,” he said. Lopez is also a member of HOLA, Roanoke College’s Hispanic Organization for Leadership and Achievement.

In the past five years at Roanoke College applications from Hispanic students have grown nearly 12%, and enrollment has grown over 70%.

“Many a time, I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go to college,” said Lopez. “Sometimes it’s from legal status, money-wise.”

Lopez says he’s proud to see his school investing in Hispanic students.

One way the college is doing that is through HACU, which provides scholarships for Hispanic students and connects them with paid internships.

“The fact that we have these resources specifically for Hispanic and Latino students, I think it’s going to be a game changer for their future,” said Janny Alvarado, an admissions counselor and Latinx recruitment coordinator, who helped bring Roanoke College into HACU.

She was born and raised in Guatemala and got her degree at Roanoke College, where she stayed on to join their admissions team. Alvarado works hand in hand with the school’s growing population of Spanish-speaking and Latino students.

“We were very excited that this was going to be a growth population in our student body,” she said. “To be able to broaden that more with HACU, I think that’s going to be extremely special and very important as well.”

HACU’s mission is to promote the development of its member colleges, meet the needs of business and industry, and improve the accessibility of a college education. V.P. of Enrollment Management at Roanoke College JP Pennix says accessibility is a key to diversity.

“Partnerships with organizations like HACU really set the stage for us so that we’re able to attract those populations of students,” he said. “We’re going to probably see students that are coming from different areas not just our primary territory.”

“Being selfish in the enrollment world, I want more students especially Hispanic and Latinx to come and see what great things Roanoke College can afford them,” he said.

“Last year I won the diversity award at Roanoke College that made me really happy that a Hispanic kid can,” said Lopez. “Anything you can bring as a Hispanic or any ethnicity, we count it here.”

In October, Roanoke College will be attending HACU’s annual conference to learn how they can further the success of Hispanic college students.