Ashley WattsHispanic Male Retention at 2-year CollegesIn working with the Dean of Student Affairs, I was asked to focus on creating a program for theminority male students on campus. The event, titled the Minority Male Success Summit, wastargeted at African American and Hispanic males. While putting the event together, I began toread a number of articles and studies about minority male students. One report in particular fromthe College Board peaked my interest. The Educational Experience of Young Men of Color(EEYMC) clearly laid out the staggering differences between the educational attainment ofminority males, particularly Hispanics, African Americans and Native American/PacificIslanders, and their Caucasian and Asian American counterparts (Lee, Ransom & College BoardAdvocacy & Policy, 2011). The high school drop out, unemployment and incarnation rates ofthese populations was unconscionable (Lee et. al, 2011).According to the EEYMC (2011) only 18 percent of Hispanic males have and associatedegree or higher (Lee et. at, 2011). When you consider the fact that Hispanics are the majorityminority making up 14.8 percent of population in America in 2006 and are the fastest growingpopulation at a rate of three times that of the general population, the education of Hispanic malesin becomes a national issue (U.S. Census Bureau, 2007). This fact is supported by PresidentObamas signing of “Executive Order 135555, renewing the White House Initiative onEducational Excellence for Hispanic Americans... [which] provide[s] advice and guidance to thesecretary of education on education issues related to Hispanics and to address academicexcellence and opportunities to the Hispanic community” (Lee et. al, 2011, p. 73).While research has consistently proven that the attrition rates for community collegestudents are much higher than that of students at 4-year institutions, Hispanics who pursue higher
education attend still attend two-year schools at a rate of 54.4 percent (Saenz and Ponjuan,2009). Unfortunately, “Latino students are [also] more likely to drop out if they begin theircollege studies at a two-year college,” and in 2003 the graduation rate of students attendingcommunity colleges was about 17 percent (Martinez, 2004; Garcia, 2010). Furthermore,Hispanic males are the least degree earning demographic (Lee et. al, 2011). These statistics painta clear picture of how important it is to keep this population in school and to help them to besuccessful in their journey and transition to “senior” institutions or into the workforce.There are several factors that affect student retention and attrition, as well as severaltheories that have been developed to explain this phenomenon; however, “research specific toHispanic students attending community colleges [is]… in its infancy stages, and there is no onecomprehensive theory to explain the specific factors influencing this unique group of students”(Crisp, 2010). Drawing from the work of scholars Tinto, Nora, and Bourdieu, which focused onretention and attrition of traditionally aged students at 4-year institutions, Crisp (2010) was ableto create a framework for understanding retention specific to the this population. The variableswere then grouped into five (5) categories: pre-college variables, demographic variables, socio-cultural variables, environmental pull factors, and academic experiences (Crisp, 2010). Summers(2003) through his work on student attrition at community colleges formulated five (5) similargroups of variables that are comparable to Crips’s (2010). They are academic ability; studentcharacteristics; other student characteristics; noncognitive factors and availability and use ofstudent services, respectively. The challenge is determining what makes Hispanic male retentiona unique issue and once it is those specific issues are pinpointed, establishing ways in whichcommunity colleges can address it through new or existing avenues.
There are several pre-college variables linked to persistence that are common to allstudents, such as high school courses taken, high school grade point average (GPA) and delayedenrollment in college. Burns (2010) cites that “academic preparedness is the single mostimportant factor in determining college success” (pp. 34-35). The problem is that studentsenrolling in community college typically come from low-income neighborhoods with subparschools and where students are inadequate prepared for the challenges of collegiate level work(Burns, 2010). For students of color these problems begin very early on. According to Saenz andPonjuan (2009) “boys in grades 4 through 8 are twice as likely as girls to be held back a grade,and the rate is even higher for boys of color” (p. 59). Additionally, “Latino students are morelikely to be overrepresented in special education, and recent data suggest that they tend to beespecially overidentified during their high school years… which makes their college pathwaysthat much more difficult to navigate” (Saenz and Ponjuan, 2009, p. 60).Often compounding negative pre-college variables are demographic and socio-culturalvariables, such as language barriers, parents who have not attended college and familyresponsibilities (Crisp, 2010). “Students who are first in their family to attend a postsecondaryinstitution have no knowledge about timelines and deadlines for filing federal financial aid”(Garcia, 2010). If deadlines for aid are not met, there is increased pressure to work in order topay for school and possibly help with family financial obligations, which begins to pull studentsaway from academic endeavors. The work of Saenz and Ponjuan (2009) sheds more light on theissue explaining the cultural “expectations for the Latino male to work in order to contribute tothe family’s well-being” (p. 55). This is even more pronounced among young immigrants stillentrenched in more traditional ways of thinking (Saenz and Ponjuan, 2009). Unfortunately,“students who [work] full time [are] more likely to drop out of college when compared to those
who worked part-time or not at all” (Summers, 2003, p. 71). These conflicts between school andfamily obligations are often cited among the reasons a student drops out (Summers, 2003, p. 71).Financial aid received and hours worked are part of what Crisp (2010) calls,“environmental pull factors” (p. 178). These factors can be mitigated if students have goodacademic experiences, such as spending time with faculty or academic advisors and takingdevelopmental coursework (Crisp, 2010). Fike (2008) found success in developmentalcoursework to increase the likelihood of retention. In the same study, involvement in StudentSupport Services which “requires students to meet regularly with their advisors, completemidsemester grade checks, and complete a long-term plan of study” was shown to improveretention (Fike, 2009, p. 82). Summers (2003) informs us that “students who were contacted byand visited with a counselor were more likely to persist than other students,” (p. 72).It is important, however, for those teaching and counseling Hispanic males to understandtheir culture. It is well documented that students who are matched with mentors of the sameethnicity and gender feel their mentors are more helpful personally and professionally (Santosand Reigadas, 2002; Campbell and Campbell, 2007; Pope, 2002). However, there is a “lack ofLatino male teachers at all… levels” (Saenz, p. 62). This is problematic because, as Martinez(2004) explains:teaching and learning is a contextualized process in which certain cultural formsbecome legitimized through their inclusion or delegitimized through theirabsence… Nowhere perhaps are these issues more relevant than in the context ofthe community college where more and more diverse students are seekingeducational opportunities and mobility. (p. 56)
Even students with positive pre-college variables may eventually drop out if environmentalvariables are negative, according to Bean and Metzner (Summers, 2010). The opposite, however,is also true. A positive environment can help a low-performing student to persist (Summers,2010).Martinez (2004) points out that “Latinos will continue to turn to higher education as avehicle for upward social, political, and economic mobility and our social institutions willdepend on community colleges to prepare, train, and support” them (p. 60). As student affairsprofessionals, whether serving at a 2-year or 4-year institution, we can play an integral role inchanging the landscape of higher education and the nation by helping creating an environment inwhich Hispanic males succeed. Though we cannot control students’ pre-college experience,socio-cultural variables or demographics, we can influence the college environment andacademic experiences. We can become mentors and advocates for these students, ensuring thatthey are aware of the resources available to them. We should be leading the way, linking armswith faculty to serve every student to the best of our abilities.
ReferencesBurns, K. (2010). At issue: Community college student success variables: a review of theliterature. Community College Enterprise, 16(2), 33-61. Retrieved from ERIC database.Campbell, T., & Campbell, D. (2007). Outcomes of Mentoring At-Risk College Students:Gender and Ethnic Matching Effects. Mentoring & Tutoring: Partnership in Learning,15(2), 135-148. Retrieved from ERIC database.Crisp, G. (2010). Hispanic Student Success: Factors Influencing the Persistence and TransferDecisions of Latino Community College Students Enrolled in Developmental Education.Research In Higher Education, 51(2), 175-194. Retrieved from ERIC database.Fike, D. (2008). Predictors of First-Year Student Retention in the Community College.Community College Review, 36(2), 68-88. Retrieved from ERIC database.Garcia, M. (2010). When Hispanic Students Attempt to Succeed in College, But Do Not.Community College Journal Of Research & Practice, 34(10), 839-847. Retrieved fromERIC database.Greene, T. G., Marti, C., & McClenney, K. (2008). The Effort-Outcome Gap: Differences forAfrican American and Hispanic Community College Students in Student Engagementand Academic Achievement. Journal Of Higher Education, 79(5), 513-539. Retrievedfrom ERIC database.Lee, J. r., Ransom, T., & College Board Advocacy & Policy, C. (2011). The EducationalExperience of Young Men of Color: A Review of Research, Pathways and Progress.College Board Advocacy & Policy Center.Martinez, M. (2004). Latinos at community colleges. New Directions For Student Services,(105), 51-62. Retrieved from ERIC database.
U.S. Census Bureau (2007). Population Trends in the Hispanic Population. Retrieved April 9,2010 from http://www.census.gov/population/www/socdemo/hispanic/ files/Internet_Hispanic_in_US_2006.ppt.Pope, M. (2002). Community College Mentoring: Minority Student Perceptions. CommunityCollege Review, 30(3), 31-45. Retrieved from ERIC database.Santos, S., & Reigadas, E. (2002). Latinos in Higher Education: An Evaluation of a UniversityFaculty Mentoring Programs. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1(1), 40-50.Retrieved from ERIC database.Summers, M. D. (2003). ERIC Review: Attrition Research at Community Colleges. CommunityCollege Review, 30(4), 64. Retrieved from ERIC database.