Cullowhee rising. Sounds like a fitting name for some aspiring college band, but it best describes what’s happening at Western Carolina University and the community surrounding it. It’s one of the fastest growing places in the region whose potential is matched by the energy of those who live and work there. And this is why it is important that those advocating for zoning measures in Cullowhee prevail in the face of the passionate but misguided voices trying to squelch the forward motion.
Western Carolina University has 7,500 traditional college students who live and study in and around Cullowhee. Total enrollment is around 10,300, but some of those are nontraditional students — professionals seeking a second degree who live elsewhere or students at its satellite locations. By 2023 — that sounds like the distant future, but is now less than 10 years away — that 7,500 figure is expected to grow to 11,000. That’s a whopping 46 percent increase in students, and that doesn’t account for the faculty and staff required to accommodate this growth.