Examining Dimensions of Latina/o College Student Success: An Analysis of Individual Persistence and Success
Lopez, Mark A.
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Latinas/os are considered "deprived" when it comes to educational achievement (Arbona & Novy, 1991), are lagging in postsecondary degree attainment, and are currently the most educationally "underserved" population in the United States (Fry, 2002). Although higher education institutions have increased efforts to proactively recruit, enroll, and graduate Latina/o students, the students continue to struggle with the educational disparities between Latina/o students and their White counterparts. As the nation's Latina/o community experiences significant growth, the number of Latina/o students pursuing higher education is increasing. However, their increased enrollment within postsecondary education does not reflect their increased representation in the overall population (Castellanos & Jones, 2003). Through the use of qualitative research methodology, this study employed case study research to explore graduating Latina/o college students' experiences at a large, public, predominantly White, research-extensive institution, specifically, Latina and Latino students who filed for graduation during the spring 2006 and fall 2006 semester. This study used case study methodology and focus group interviews to (a) determine dimensions of success for graduating Latina/o college students; (b) contribute to the existing college student success literature; and (c) to assist and advance the success scholarship on policymaking. From the data analysis, eight dimensions of success for Latina/o college students were identified. The dimensions were: (a) being involved, (b) the family's role, (c) the role of campus leaders and mentors, (d) embracing academics, (e) desire to be successful, (f) Latina/o students' "Latino Center," (g) "our situation is not the same," and (h) understanding the campus' Latina/o community. The Latina/o students' interviews indicated that the participants' experiences are contextual and distinct. It is essential that policymakers and higher education personnel thoroughly understand the experiences of Latina/o college students to ensure their success within postsecondary education. There should be a concerted effort to explore Latina/o student success, increase consciousness around dimensions of difference they bring with them to the university, and validate their life experiences as well as their academic and personal endeavors. This study's findings have important implications for policy, research, and practice.