ERIC Identifier: ED372903
Publication Date: 1994-09-00
Author: Flores, Judith LeBlanc
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Rural Education and Small Schools Charleston WV.
Facilitating Postsecondary Outcomes for Mexican Americans. ERIC
Postsecondary outcomes for Mexican Americans have not improved measurably
since the mid-1980s. Although Hispanic students are attending and graduating
from college in greater numbers, much of this growth is linked directly to their
population growth. Despite increased representation among undergraduates and
college graduates, Hispanic students complete college at a lower rate than the
general student population: 41 percent of 4-year institutions' Hispanic entrants
graduate, compared with 54 percent of all entrants (Carter & Wilson, 1993).
This digest will address those factors that may facilitate postsecondary
outcomes for Hispanic students, particularly Mexican-American students, who
enroll in U.S. community colleges and 4-year institutions. Factors examined
include preparation for college; transfer from community colleges to 4-year
colleges; retention and completion of 4-year degrees; financial aid; and gender,
culture, and language issues.
PREPARATION FOR COLLEGE
Recent research (Quality Education
for Minorities Project, 1990; Rendon & Nora, 1988) suggests that
institutional practices have much to do with minorities' lack of postsecondary
participation: employing differential tracking; channeling minority students
away from activities that foster inquiry and creative thinking skills;
segregating them into minority schools; and failing to provide a support system
or counselors and teachers with whom students can identify.
Other research has looked for ways to address these problems. Sosa (1990)
reported on several innovative community projects, including group tutorials and
parent-school partnerships, that promote academic achievement and aid Hispanics
in preparing for college. Mehan and Villanueva (1993) reported on an untracking
experiment involving 253 students in 14 high schools in the San Diego Schools
system. Low- and high-achieving students were placed in the same rigorous
academic program for the college bound, for 3 years. Among the Latino students
involved in the experimental program, 44 percent enrolled in 4-year colleges.
Even among those who complete high school, many students do not realize they
are capable of earning bachelor's degrees (Rendon, Justiz, & Resta, 1988).
This circumstance suggests that college recruiters should seek out and encourage
high school students who have not considered attending college (Valdivieso,
COMMUNITY COLLEGE ARTICULATION ON TRANSFER WITH 4-YEAR INSTITUTIONS
Of the Hispanic students who go on to postsecondary education, most enroll in
two-year institutions. For most Americans, however, the educational gateway to
opportunity is a 4-year college degree. Although there is little documentation
on the effects of community college attendance in terms of educational outcomes
and long-term economic returns, one statistic seems significant: Transfer rates
often fall lower than 10 percent for minority students (Rendon & Nora,
1988). A comprehensive study of community colleges with large Hispanic
enrollments in Texas, Arizona, and California (Rendon, Justiz & Resta, 1988)
revealed a number of barriers for students in the transfer process: (a)
unfamiliarity with the costs/benefits of the higher education system; (b)
unwillingness to leave community and families; (c) difficulty meeting timelines;
(d) lack of family involvement in education; (e) having to work to help the
family survive; (f) not knowing they were capable of earning degrees; (g) not
understanding the consequences of changing programs; (h) financial pressures;
(i) minimal faculty-student interaction; and (j) weak community college
articulation with senior institutions, both in terms of exchanging data about
transfer students and comparing curriculum and expectations.
Communication problems abound. Turner (1988) noted that the part-time and
transitory nature of commuting students poses difficulties in making students
aware of opportunities and resources. College catalogs alone are often a poor
source of information for students faced with multiple barriers at senior
institutions: application paperwork, tuition and moving costs, assessment
policies, space limitations in required courses, and variations in university
general education requirements (Rendon & Nora, 1988).
RETENTION AND 4-YEAR COLLEGE COMPLETION
Fiske's (1988) survey of the undergraduate Hispanic experience at 10
universities across the nation suggests that for many Hispanic students the most
serious problems are not those they confront getting into college, but those
they face once they get there. The problems range from the anxiety of breaking
close family ties to the loneliness and tensions inherent in finding their way
in large, impersonal, fast-paced institutions. Students often feel alienated,
discouraged, and overwhelmed.
To help students overcome such problems, inquiries by Fiske (1988), Carter
and Wilson (1993), Rendon and Nora (1988) and Valdivieso (1990) suggest students
need (a) adequate support systems; (b) encouragement, guidance, and counseling;
(c) ethnic minority organizations and cultural service centers; (d) high levels
of involvement in college life; and (e) favorable relationships with faculty
members and academic advisors.
Based on Tinto's (1987) Student Attrition Model, Nora (1987a) studied Chicano
students enrolled part-time or full-time in three community colleges in southern
Texas with large Hispanic populations, and Flores (1989) studied Hispanics
(mostly Mexican Americans) enrolled full-time at two comprehensive universities
in Oklahoma. Both found that Mexican-American students who made better grades
and received more precollege encouragement tended to earn some form of
credential. In Flores' study, Hispanic-American students who were competent
members of both the social and academic communities tended to persist to degree
Finances and financial aid are first-order
concerns of minority students (Cibik & Chambers, 1991). Fields (1988)
reported on Hispanic-origin students nationwide and found that "expanded
financial aid, better information about it, and simplified financial aid
processing were among the most important things the campus might do to help them
remain in college" (p. 25). This finding is supported by Nora (1987b), who
reported that Hispanic community college students who received high levels of
noncampus and campus-based financial aid were enrolled in more semesters, earned
more semester hours, earned high grade point averages, and received some form of
HISPANIC WOMEN AND THE GENDER GAP
The gender gap currently
seems to favor Hispanic women. Carter and Wilson (1993) report that the gender
gap in high school completion continues to be largest among Hispanics--52
percent of the men graduated in 1992, compared to 62.8 percent of the women.
Between 1991-1992, Hispanic women also earned a larger increase than Hispanic
men in associate degrees (13.7 percent vs. 3.5 percent), bachelor's degrees
(14.2 percent vs. 8.1 percent), master's degrees (8 percent vs. 2.2 percent),
and first professional degrees (4.5 percent vs. 3.9 percent) (pp. 16-17).
Of the 200 Chicano women students from the University of Texas-El Paso in
Young's (1992) study, 47 percent were majoring in fields traditionally dominated
by men (e.g., business, engineering, natural sciences) (p. 348). The increase in
the number of bachelor's degrees awarded to Hispanics in engineering is almost
entirely from women's achievement and has tripled since 1981 (Carter &
Despite gains, Mexican-American women still face many obstacles: financial
constraints, the number of hours per week spent on the job, limited family
support or family opposition, difficulty with studies or too little time to
study, and interruptions to attend to family matters at home (Young, 1992).
CULTURAL HERITAGE AND LANGUAGE
"General education program
curricula rarely reflect Hispanic interests or Latino culture" (Fiske, 1988, p.
30). Yet Hispanic-American students who completed their degrees at the
University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University were more likely to have a
balanced bicultural orientation and retain the Spanish language (Flores, 1989;
1992). Not long ago, being a native Spanish speaker was viewed as a deficit.
Now, as Garcia's (1992) review found, being bilingual is seen by many educators
as linguistic enrichment with possible cognitive advantages.
Young (1992) noted that 40 percent of the Chicano students at the University
of Texas-El Paso think it is important that the college curriculum contain
material about the heritage of Mexican Americans, and 65 percent reported they
speak Spanish well. With the rise of Hispanic enrollment, some colleges and
universities offer Spanish language courses for native speakers (Collison, 1994)
and at Kean College, for example, the combination of Spanish-speaking programs
(SSP) and ESL provides a dual track to academic success. "While Spanish-speaking
students enroll in ESL courses in order to develop their English proficiency,
they simultaneously earn college credit by taking general education courses
taught in Spanish through SSP" (Rosenthal, 1990, p. 26).
RECOMMENDATIONS FOR FACILITATING OUTCOMES
outlined above, has pointed to some important factors that can affect
postsecondary outcomes for Mexican-American and other minority students. To
further facilitate outcomes, there is a need to examine (a) regional differences
and similarities among Mexican-American and other Hispanic student populations,
(b) steps taken by states and institutions to promote precollege academic
progress and community college transfers to 4-year institutions, (c) gender gap
issues, (d) the influence of culture and language on college achievement, and
(e) ways to provide financial aid that encourage increased on-campus interaction
and full attention to studies.
Carter, D. J., & Wilson, R. (1993).
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American Council on Education, Office of Minorities in Higher Education. (ED 363
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among Native Americans, Hispanics, Blacks, and Anglos. NASPA Journal, 28(2),
Collison, M. N. K. (1994, February 2). Spanish for native speakers. Chronicle
of Higher Education, 40(22), pp. A15-16.
Fields, C. (1988). The Hispanic pipeline: Narrow, leaking, and needing
repair. Change, 20(3), 20-27.
Fiske, E. B. (1988). The undergraduate Hispanic experience: A case of
juggling two cultures. Change, 20(3), 29-33.
Flores, J. L. (1989). The persistence and nonpersistence of Hispanic American
students at two comprehensive universities. Unpublished doctoral dissertation.
University of Oklahoma, Norman. (University Microfilms No. 9014173)
Flores, J. L. (1992, April). Persisting Hispanic American college students:
Characteristics that lead to baccalaureate degree completion. Paper presented at
the annual meeting of the American Educational Research Association, San
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policy issues. Educational Psychology Review, 4(1), 69-93.
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structural model. Research in Higher Education, 26(1), 31-59.
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among Hispanic community college students. Paper presented at the American
Educational Research Association, New Orleans.
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Rendon, L., Justiz, M., & Resta, P. (1988). Transfer education in
southwest community colleges. Columbia: University of South Carolina.
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Toward new policies that facilitate baccalaureate attainment. Cambridge:
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. (ED 305 098)
Rosenthal, J. W. (1990). Innovative programs to help retain native
Spanish-speaking students in college--the Kean College experience. NABE News,
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community practices (ERIC Digest EDO-RC-90-2). Charleston, WV: ERIC
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attrition. Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago.
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of the transfer of Hispanic students from two- to 4-year colleges in the Bay
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Implications for schools (ERIC Digest EDO-RC-90-10). Charleston, WV: ERIC
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Tradition and transformation. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 14(3),