Year of Publication

2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Education

Department

Educational Policy Studies and Eval

First Advisor

Dr. Jane McEldowney Jensen

Abstract

Latino students are the only ethnic group more likely to enroll in community colleges than four-year institutions. However, they transfer to four-year institutions at much lower rates than their white counterparts. This gap in transfer rates for Hispanic students is of significant concern to higher education researchers and policy makers because of its broad impact on overall educational attainment for Hispanics.

Research on Latino transfer rates has focused predominantly on quantitative data, which paints a clear picture of what is happening, but falls short in explaining why transfer rates continue to be low. Researchers have offered both structural (social reproduction theory and the community college "cooling out" theory) and agency explanations (transfer aspirations and self-efficacy) for low transfer rates. This dissertation expands our understanding of Latino student transfer through a qualitative, interview-based study, which gives voice to six Latino students at an urban community college in the Ohio Valley. Individual interviews were conducted with transfer-ready students and were then transcribed and analyzed through narrative analysis.

Each of the students in this study planned to earn an associate‘s degree and then transfer to a four-year institution, but despite these goals they had done limited transfer planning. Although the community college provides access to these students, the students also struggle financially and wonder if they‘ll be able to afford the American Dream. Within the context of the community college and American culture, the students are navigating cultural values, gender roles, and expectations as they pursue their education.

The students pursue their educational goals and persistence within the context of strong family connections. They are navigating an unfamiliar education system, often in a foreign language. As they experience education in another language, they are actively engaged in the production of their own cultural identities.

Despite the obstacles these students face – particularly financially), the student narratives are grounded in a strong sense of personal agency and a belief that education will provide them with a better future.

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