Saturday, December 13, 2008

Report Finds Latino College Students Motivated, Hardworking, In Need of More Financial Aid

What a statistic Dr. Saenz' research reveals: "Latino men constituted 57.4 percent of Latino freshmen in 1975, but only 39 percent by 2006." My colleague here at UT is doing great work as you can see below.


Report Finds Latino College Students Motivated, Hardworking, In Need of More Financial Aid
- Dec. 1st., 2008

Dr. Victor B. Saenz

Dr. Victor Sáenz, an assistant professor in The University of Texas at Austin’s College of Education, co-authored a UCLA report that shows over the past three decades, the income disparity between Latino and non-Hispanic white students entering four-year colleges and universities has increased fourfold. The difference in median household income grew from $7,986 in 1975 to $32,965 in 2006, according to the comprehensive, multi-faceted report on Latino college students.

"Even though Latinos had a slight increase in minimizing the racial income gap, the central tendency of the gap remains fairly large over this three-decade-long period," said UCLA assistant professor of education José Luis Santos, an expert on economic issues in higher education and co-author of the report. "It is not surprising that adequate financial support remains critical to both college choice and persistence for Latinos."

One in five Latino freshmen expressed major concern about the ability to finance college at the start of the school year in 2006, compared with only 8.6 percent of non-Hispanic white freshmen. The report also shows that financial assistance was among the top factors influencing Latino freshmen in their choice of a four-year college or university.

National data for "Advancing in Higher Education: A Portrait of Latino College Freshmen at Four-Year Institutions, 1975–2006," came from the Cooperative Institutional Research Program's (CIRP) annual Freshman Survey, administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA's Graduate School of Education & Information Studies. The CIRP data were reported by gender and by specific Latino ethnic-origin groups — including categories for Mexican American/Chicano, Puerto Rican and Other Latino — highlighting population diversity unavailable in other national reports on Hispanic college students.

"We actually began monitoring specific Latino ethnic groups in 1971, which predates federal data collection on Hispanic students," said UCLA professor of education Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute and a report co-author.

The report also indicated that even as the number of Latino students entering four-year institutions has increased, the proportion of Latino males to females has decreased dramatically. Latino men constituted 57.4 percent of Latino freshmen in 1975, but only 39 percent by 2006.

"The gender gap in educational attainment across most racial/ethnic groups has been growing in recent years, but this gap for Latinos has been understudied," said report co-author Victor B. Sáenz, a member of The University of Texas at Austin College of Education’s Department of Educational Administration. "There is little research that explains why these gender gaps are growing among Latino students and even less about what this gap could portend in light of the fast-growing nature of this population. The bottom line is that these results identify a problematic area in dire need of more research."

In other key findings, Latino freshmen reported a strong drive to achieve relative to non-Hispanic white students and in recent years have surpassed other peer groups in these self-ratings. They also were likely to report higher degree aspirations than their peers.

In most years, a higher proportion of male and female Latinos reported spending six or more hours a week on studying or homework in high school than gender groups of other ethnicities. By 2006, Latinas kept pace with female whites (38 and 37 percent, respectively), and both female groups spent more time studying or doing homework in high school than Latino males (28.8 percent) or white males (25 percent). Report authors speculated that Latinos work hard to make the grade because of the challenges they face or the general belief that hard work leads to success.

"These findings serve to counter the myth that college-bound Latinos lack the effort, preparation or academic motivation to succeed in college," Sáenz said. "Quite the contrary, these results suggest that Latino college-bound students are among the most driven and motivated to achieve, a finding which puts the focus back on colleges, who need to better cultivate those initial predispositions among their entering Latino students."

Although well over 90 percent of Latinos and non-Hispanic whites have achieved the recommended high school preparation in English, mathematics and foreign language study set by the National Commission on Educational Excellence in 1982, fewer Latino students than whites report having taken the recommended two years of physical science (56.5 percent and 61.4 percent, respectively), and both groups fall short of meeting biological science course recommendations (completed by 45.3 percent and 46.8 percent, respectively).

As competition for admission to four-year institutions has increased for all students, the percentage of Latinos reporting they are attending their first-choice institution has seen a 27 percent relative decrease, compared with a 10 percent relative decrease for whites. There is a related trend of increases in college application rates. In 1975, 14.1 percent of Latinos and 6 percent of whites reported applying to five or more colleges in addition to the one they ultimately attended. In 2006, 34.8 percent of Latinos and 23 percent of whites reported doing so.

"Latinos at four-year colleges got the message and are applying to more schools, although fewer now state they are attending their first-choice institution," Santos said. "Latinos are attracted by financial aid packages, but some of these choices may not be as close to home, where costs can be lower. The question is how Latino students from different income groups make these decisions. It is an area we want to study further."

According to the report, Latinos' intended majors and career objectives have remained steady over the years, with biology, psychology, political science, business, nursing and elementary education among the top 10 intended majors at college entry.

Historically, Latinos have tended to characterize themselves as more liberal and less conservative politically than white students, and report findings indicated this still is true: 43.2 percent of Latinos characterized their political views as "middle of the road," 34.8 percent as liberal, 17.4 percent as conservative and 1.4 percent as far right. In contrast, 26.2 percent of white students characterized their political views as liberal, and 26.5 percent reported that they were conservative.

Latinos also expressed strong support, but showed gender differences, for several possible election issues: Latino women were more likely than men to agree that same-sex couples have the right to legal marital status (71.3 percent and 57.8 percent, respectively) and that the federal government should do more to control the sale of handguns (83.3 percent and 72 percent, respectively). Latino women and men both strongly support the statements that a national health care plan is needed to cover everybody's medical costs (79.6 percent and 74.2 percent, respectively) and that the federal government is not doing enough to control environmental pollution (83.7 percent and 78.6 percent, respectively). Latino men were more likely than women to support the statement that federal military spending should be increased (29 percent and 24.1 percent, respectively), but both were less likely to do so than white students (34.3 percent).

Sylvia Hurtado, Victor B. Sáenz, José Luis Santos and Nolan L. Cabrera co-authored the report, and the findings were released at the Association of American Colleges and Universities' "Diversity, Learning, and Inclusive Excellence" conference in October.

For a copy of "Advancing in Higher Education: A Portrait of Latino College Freshmen at Four-Year Institutions: 1975–2006," visit or call the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA at 310-825-1925.

—Kay Randall, Office of the Vice President for Public Affairs, 512-232-3910

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