Latino College Students Attending Highly Selective Universities: The Role of Ethnic Identity
thesisposted on 2016-07-01, 00:00 authored by Linda D. Campos-Moreira
Latinos trail behind their non-Latino White peers in academic achievement from early childhood through higher education. While attention has been paid to improving Latinos high school completion and college enrollment rates, far less attention has been given to college completion. This study utilized quantitative data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Freshman (NLSF) to address two overarching research questions: (1) Is a culturally accepting/inclusive school climate related to positive academic outcomes? and (2) Does the effect of the cultural climate on student achievement vary by students’ ethnic identity? The sample was comprised of 917 Latino college students attending 28 selective universities from across the nation. The empirical research on these areas of interest has produced mixed results. This may be partially due to ethnic identity and academic outcomes being defined and measured differently from one study to another, making it difficult to make comparisons from one study to another. This study examined ethnic identity from a multi-dimensional perspective and examined academic achievement from a mainstream and Latino perspective (students’ ability to obtain a formal education while maintaining strong family/community ties). The cultural school climate was related to five outcomes (timely degree completion, increased academic aspirations and connectedness to family, community, and ethnic group). The effect of the cultural climate on student achievement was dependent on students’ ethnic identity for seven outcomes (i.e. grades earned, timely degree completion, degree completion (six years), increased aspirations, reduced aspirations, family connectedness, and feeling resented by one’s ethnic group). The majority of these students completed their degree and earned high grades, however, a sizeable amount reported their going to college made them feel less part of their family and reported feeling resented by members of their ethnic group. This study supports the need to develop targeted programs to serve a range of Latino students because depending on the outcome in question and/or students’ unique dimensions of ethnic identity, some students stand to benefit more from culturally inclusive learning environments than others. Also, this study shows schools can strengthen students’ relationships with family and their ethnic group while also nurturing their academic aspirations and timely completion.