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What We Know about Latina/o Student Access and Success in Postsecondary Education

A Report to the Lumina Foundation
Raymond Padilla, Ph.D.

Outcomes

Success

132.  One researcher attributed high level Latina/o educational success (through doctoral study) to intense personal drives for achievement where the subjects vowed not to live in the kind of poverty they were born into.  Opportunity also played a role in gaining access to a college preparatory curriculum and the information and resources that made attending college a reliable goal.  Contact with White peer groups also was important so that Chicana/o students attending racially mixed schools had greater  access to resources (both economic and as White cultural and symbolic capital).

133.  Another study (of Puerto Rican students) focused on four elements that led to success:  The family and the church as a supportive context for literacy learning.  The students were able to negotiate successfully their ethnic identity with the culture found in their schools and colleges.  Education and learning were important values in the home.  At critical moments in their education, key individuals were able to support the students to overcome obstacles.

134.  English-only students were not the highest achievers in school.  The students with the least transience and the highest academic achievement and commitment were those who were fully bilingual.  The authors hypothesized that this decline in student achievement that accompanies acculturation to U.S. society may be related to racial bias in U.S. culture.  They recommend that schools improve students’ academic engagement by teaching effective work habits and study skills.

135.  For Latina/o college students, individual agency is important for transforming, through daily practices, university environments that are hostile to Latina/o students.  Daily practices include the use of symbols (posters, flags, music, etc.) to transform the physical space; use of Chicana/o scholarship to transform the epistemological world; and the creation of Chicana/o social networks to transform the social space.  The presence of Chicana/o faculty and staff and their institutional offices provides Chicana/o students with safe social zones where they can comfortably be themselves.

136.  A study of the first year experience of Latina/o college students noted that most of the students indicated that their lack of academic preparedness was a cause of concern in their transition to college, as was the level and expectations of college level work and the pace of the courses.  Students indicated that the level of support they received from their families was important in helping them through their first year.  Many students who lived on campus chose to go home on the weekends.

137.  A study of Latina/o leaders of student organizations on university campuses concluded that the most important activities of the organizations were parties, dances and festivals, lectures, and community service.  Female respondents found membership to be more empowering than males.  Almost all of the students agreed that membership provided them with social integration on campus.  Although the participants did not feel that their grades had improved due to their participation in the organizations, they did feel that the organizations had aided in their persistence.

138.  The main barriers identified by Latino parents to achieving educational aspirations for their children were lack of time (due to parents working more than ten hours per day, six days per week), lack of understanding of the pathways to achieve educational goals, and lack of English skills.  Their children identified racism in their schools, both from other students and teachers, as a barrier to their achievement.

139.  Proactive behaviors of Latino parents in support of their children’s education included emphasizing the importance of education, support for their children’s autonomy, and nonverbal support (e.g. providing quiet study space) for the education of their children.

140.  Participation in a summer leadership institute provided Latina/o students with access to a broad array of institutional agents that in turn could provide students with access to resources and the cultural capital that is valued in higher education.  The resources mentioned by the students before participating in the leadership institute were family members, teachers, and to a lesser extent, counselors.  The summer leadership institute provided access to community leader and peer counselors that allowed these students access to social networks that geared them toward higher education, cultural and community commitment, and pride.

 

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