In recent years, Latinos have experienced the highest rate of increase in college enrollment among major ethnic groups. However, because they also tend to be first-generation college students, live at home, and work, they are least likely to persist to bachelor degree completion. Using a semi-structured interview, this qualitative descriptive study explored factors that fostered persistence of 20 first-generation, Latino commuter-university, bachelor degree graduates who faced those challenges. Findings revealed that such students encounter obstacles that hinder college persistence almost immediately upon entry. Having no one to explain in advance how college “works,” they cannot adequately anticipate the academic demands and responsibilities, nor do they understand how to navigate the administrative system. They are also constantly overwhelmed at having to juggle not only work and schoolwork, but also traditional Latino family obligations required of them by parents who also do not understand what being a college student entails. Other factors, however, helped them overcome these challenges: support from parents, financial aid programs, and on-campus relationships. The most important parental support was permission for the student to use work earnings for college expenses. Financial aid programs were essential to supplement these earnings and whatever modest financial support parents might provide. On-campus relationships were a critical aspect of Latino students’ support system. Staff provided essential personal academic advising. Faculty—especially Latino faculty—offered caring personal attention and role models. Equally important were relationships with other Latino students, which provided needed information and cultural affinity. Seeing others “like me” succeed helped these students believe they, too, could persist and graduate. Educators and administrators at commuter universities can positively affect Latino college persistence by increasing students’ knowledge about and access to financial aid, offering programs that prepare Latino students and their parents for the multiple demands of being a college student, and establishing structures designed to increase Latino students’ social and academic integration. Given current demographic shifts, improving Latino college graduation rates are not only a question of equity and social justice, but may be an important factor in the future overall health of the United States economy.
|Commitee:||Diaz, Rebeca, Herrera, Dana R.|
|School:||Saint Mary's College of California|
|School Location:||United States -- California|
|Source:||DAI-A 73/04, Dissertation Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Educational leadership, Hispanic American studies, Higher education|
|Keywords:||Bachelor degree graduates, College persistence, Commuter students, First-generation students, Latino, Multiple responsibilities, Persistence, Undergraduates|
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