Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Untapped Potential: Improving Latino Males Academic Success in Community Colleges

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research in the Community College

Untapped Potential: Improving Latino Males Academic Success in Community Colleges

Article excerpt

A recent national report highlights that Hispanic1 students represents the largest (17%) non-White student ethnic group enrolled in higher education, and over half (52%) are enrolled at public, nonprofit, or for-profit community colleges (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014c). Yet despite recent Hispanic enrollment increases in community colleges, there are fissures in the narrative of their academic success in higher education. Overall, Hispanic students earn fewer associate's degrees than than White and Black students (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). Specifically, only 6.5% of Hispanic males 25 years and over have earned an Associate's degree (occupational or academic) compared to White males (9.1%) and Black males (8.2%) (U.S. Census Bureau, 2015). This educational gap in community college completion rates portends a difficult challenge for higher education leaders.

The plight of Latino males in higher education has gained considerable attention over the last decade. Scholars acknowledge that Latino males are not graduating from high school at similar rates to their female peers (Sáenz & Ponjuán, 2009), are less likely than their female peers to pursue a college education (Ponjuán, Palomin, & Calise, 2015), face academic difficulties in community colleges (Harris & Wood, 2013), and have lower community college completion rates than White male students (U. S. Census Bureau, 2015). The composite of these factors highlights that Latino male students are not successfully navigating the pathway to community college enrollment and degree completion. The unique challenges these students face provides a compelling incentive to better understand the various factors that affect their educational success.

Coupled with the aforementioned empirical evidence, there are ongoing concerns that warrant a nuanced discussion about Latino male students in the male students of color educational research agenda. At the national level, educational organizations (e.g. College Board) and President Barack Obama supported a national response to helping male students of color with groundbreaking initiatives such as the My Brother's Keeper Alliance program. While there has been ample and critical discussions about African American male students' educational success, the unique challenges that many Hispanic male students face are often less understood and investigated. For example, research highlights that 32% of Hispanic males who are born outside of the United States are high school dropouts compared to the national average of nine percent for all male students (Stetser & Stillwell, 2014). In addition, Hispanic students represent the largest percentage of students enrolled in developmental courses in community colleges (Crisp & Nora, 2010). Finally, Latino male students often have to balance the expected family demands (i.e. familismo) and the challenges of hyper Latino masculinity (i.e. machismo) while pursuing a college education (Sáenz & Ponjuán, 2009).

The purpose of this conceptual research paper is to provide a comprehensive discussion about the educational experiences of Latino males in community colleges and provide empirically supported recommendations that address their unique needs. We begin with a discussion of the current status of Latino male students' community college enrollment and degree completion rates. Next, we provide a conceptual model that guides the discussion on what factors may contribute to this complex educational issue. Relying on the current research literature on Latino males in higher education, we will examine the following: community college enrollment, community college experiences, and community college characteristics. We conclude our paper with potential recommendations to guide community college programs and policies to address the needs of Latino male students. The seminal research on Latino males emphasized that these students encounter many educational challenges prior to postsecondary enrollment (Sáenz & Ponjuán, 2009). …

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