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Ask a REL Response

Community college persistence and non-traditional Hispanic males — December 2017


Could you provide research on nontraditional, educationally unprepared Hispanic males' persistence in community college?


Following an established REL West research protocol, we conducted a search for research reports as well as descriptive study articles on supporting nontraditional Hispanic male students’ persistence in community college. We were not able to find any resources that exactly address this request. Alternatively, we retrieved the following resources that may be relevant to the theme of the request. The sources included ERIC and other federally funded databases and organizations, research institutions, academic research databases, and general Internet search engines (for details, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo).

We have not evaluated the quality of references and the resources provided in this response. We offer them only for your information. Also, we searched for references through the most commonly used sources of research, but the list is not comprehensive and other relevant references and resources may exist.

Research References

Barbatis, P. (2010). Underprepared, ethnically diverse community college students: Factors contributing to persistence. Journal of Developmental Education, 33(3), 14–24. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The purpose of this study was to gain an understanding of the perceptions of underprepared college students who had participated in a first-year learning community at an urban, culturally diverse, commuter campus in the southeastern United States. Perceptions of graduates and those who earned at least 30 college-level credit hours were compared to their learning community peers who did not persist and had dropped out of college. A total of 22 students participated: 6 graduates, 12 persisters, and 4 dropouts. The factors included personal attributes, support systems, and other characteristics. Findings suggested the following ways to enhance the academic experience of underprepared college students: (a) include critical pedagogy, (b) integrate cocurricular activities with the academic disciplines, and (c) increase student-faculty interaction.”

Barnett, E. A. (2010). Validation experiences and persistence among community college students. The Review of Higher Education, 34(2), 193–230. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The purpose of this correlational research was to examine the extent to which community college students' experiences with validation by faculty (Rendon, 1994, 2002) predicted: (a) their sense of integration, and (b) their intent to persist. The research was designed as an elaboration of constructs within Tinto's (1993) Longitudinal Model of Institutional Departure. Four sub-constructs of faculty validation emerged: "students known and valued," "caring instruction," "appreciation for diversity," and "mentoring." Students who experienced higher levels of faculty validation were more likely to feel a sense of integration in the college; faculty validation modestly predicted students' intent to persist.”

Bukoski, B. E., & Hatch, D. K. (2016). “We’re still here … We’re not giving up”: Black and Latino men’s narratives of transition to community college. Community College Review, 44(2), 99–118. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Objective: This study examines masculinity in a manner commensurate with established feminist frameworks to deconstruct a patriarchal system that ill-serves both men and women. Method: We utilized standpoint theory and narrative analysis to examine longitudinal, qualitative data from first-year Black and Latino males as they transition into community college through their second semester. Findings: Positionality is critical to understanding the success of Black and Latino males and their response to institutional structures. In many instances, men leveraged normative constructions of masculinity as aids to their success, and their resilience and confidence were filtered through their perceived development into adults. Conclusion: Implications for practice include the creation of spaces for men to talk about what it means to be a man in college and ways to influence men to make the most of resources when proffered, even if they tend to avoid seeking them out on their own. Further research should seek to understand how men develop and evolve their concepts of masculinity as well as how and to what extent spaces for men actually work to dismantle hegemonic masculinity.”

Crisp, G., & Nora, A. (2010). Hispanic student success: Factors influencing the persistence and transfer decisions of Latino community college students enrolled in developmental education. Research in Higher Education, 51(2), 175–194. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study examined the impact of a set of theoretically-derived predictor variables on the persistence and transfer of Hispanic community college students. Early models of student persistence have been validated primarily among 4-year college students. While the constructs have been well-established, the relationships of those relevant factors remain unexamined among community college transfer students, and specifically, among Hispanic students enrolled in developmental coursework and planning to transfer from a community college to a 4-year institution. Logistic regression analysis was used to test the hypothesized conceptual framework on an existing set of quantitative persistence data drawn from a national sample of Hispanic students.”

Gardenhire-Crooks, A., Collado, H., Martin, K., & Castro, A. (2010). Terms of engagement: Men of color discuss their experiences in community college. Oakland, CA: MDRC. Retrieved from:

From the abstract: “Community colleges provide access to higher education for millions of Americans who might not otherwise be able to pursue it. However, despite the pivotal role these institutions play in promoting social equity, they continue to struggle with low student persistence and completion rates, particularly among male students of color. It is this dilemma that spurred Lumina Foundation to launch the Achieving the Dream initiative in 2003 as a bold national effort to improve student outcomes and reduce achievement gaps at community colleges. This study draws on the experiences of 87 African-American, Hispanic, and Native American men who were enrolled in developmental math courses at four Achieving the Dream institutions to find out more about what affects the success of men of color in community college. The fieldwork explored how students’ experiences in their high schools and communities, as well as their identities as men of color, influenced their decisions to go to college and their engagement in school. The students offered their perspectives in their own words in three rounds of focus groups and interviews during the 2007–08 academic year. Key findings include: (1) There was no ‘average upbringing’ among the men in this sample; their family situations and economic backgrounds were diverse, and the time that had elapsed between high school and college ranged from one year to 10 or more. Nevertheless, the men shared common motivations for enrolling in college. Those most frequently cited were to increase their earning power and to be a role model for their children. (2) These men identified low expectations and negative stereotypes based on their race, ethnicity, and gender as salient elements of their experiences in their high schools, communities, and sometimes on their college campuses. While the nature and intensity of these experiences varied across racial and ethnic groups, men in all groups recounted that they had been unfairly judged by their appearance. (3) Though most of the men initially found their community college to be more welcoming than their high school, they reported negative encounters over time with some faculty and staff. The men explicitly rejected stereotypes based on their race or ethnicity and said that such attitudes did not affect their self-image or behavior. By contrast, norms related to their identity as men—characterized principally by self-reliance—exerted a powerful influence on their ability to engage in college. Whether placing a priority on paid work over school, avoiding making friends on campus, or failing to seek out academic or financial help, these men frequently acted in ways that reinforced their masculine identities, while at times hindering their chances of academic success. By reporting how these men perceive their college environment and its challenges, this study hopes to take an important step toward understanding what community colleges can do to better meet the needs of their male students of color. The report concludes with some recommendations for how community colleges can ensure that these students receive the benefits of supports that can help them succeed and outlines a number of strategies that have already shown promise in improving the outcomes of underprepared community college students.”

Huerta, A. H., & Fisherman, S. M. (2009). Marginality and mattering: Urban Latino male undergraduates in higher education. Journal of the First-Year Experience & Students in Transition, 26(1), 85–100. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This qualitative study of first-generation, low-income urban Latino male college students considers their transition experience and success in various higher education institutions. Schlossberg’s theory of mattering and marginality is used as a lens to explore how these students navigate the college environment and build relationships with campus agents. The findings focus on the students’ motivations to attend college, the importance of the college environment, the impact of mentorship, and feelings of mattering as a result of relationships with campus peers and professional staff. The authors offer implications and program recommendations for student affairs professionals to better support and understand Latino male students at their institutions.”

Sáenz, V. B., & Ponjuan, L. (2011). Men of color: Ensuring the academic success of Latino males in higher education. Washington, DC: Institute for Higher Education Policy. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The U.S. Census data are clear: In the coming years, America’s Latina/o community will continue to drive population and labor force growth. Therefore, federal and state policymakers, higher education leaders, and communities small and large across the pre-K to college continuum would be wise to seize this sizeable demographic shift to help propel the United States into a position of economic and social prosperity. Yet, as advocates have articulated, improving the proportion of Latinas/os that access and complete college armed with the knowledge and skills to compete in the 21st century will require much work. The pressing reality is that men of color, and Latino males in particular, lag significantly behind their female peers in terms of both college access and degree attainment. This situation weakens the nation’s ability to utilize its great human capital and ensure the success of its diverse families and communities. This three-part brief has been written to bring needed clarity to the growing gender gap in educational attainment among Latinas/os and to provide recommendations for education practitioners, institutional leaders, and federal and state policymakers on how to support Latino males at the national and regional levels. To that end, this brief contains: (1) A review of recent census and educational attainment data, identifying critical transition points in early childhood, secondary, and postsecondary education between Latina/o boys and girls that affect college readiness and completion; (2) The introduction of a promising blueprint that outlines key factors to help develop and implement education programs and initiatives to increase the success of Latino male students; and (3) Policy and programmatic implications for stakeholders seeking to enact change at the pre-college and college levels and within national, state, and local contexts. Ultimately, the sobering statistics for Latino males discussed in this brief are a clarion call for action among policymakers, the philanthropic community, educators, families, and communities large and small. Simply stated, if individuals do not act strategically and collaboratively, Latino males may continue to vanish from the American higher education landscape.”

Wladis, C., Hachey, A. C., & Conway, K. M. (2015). The representation of minority, female, and non-traditional STEM majors in the online environment at community colleges: A nationally representative study. Community College Review, 43(1), 89–114. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “Using data from more than 2,000 community college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) majors in the National Postsecondary Student Aid Study, this research investigates how ethnicity, gender, nontraditional student risk factors, academic preparation, socioeconomic status, and English-as-second-language/citizenship status relate to online course enrollment patterns. Even after controlling for other factors, Blacks and Hispanics (Black and Hispanic men, in particular) were significantly underrepresented in online courses, women were significantly overrepresented, and students with nontraditional student risk factors (delayed enrollment, no high school diploma, part-time enrollment, financially independent, have dependents, single-parent status, and working full-time) were significantly more likely to enroll online. However, although ethnicity, gender, and non-traditional factors were all important predictors for both 2- and 4-year STEM majors, at community colleges, ethnicity and gender were more important predictors of online enrollment than nontraditional characteristics, which is the opposite pattern observed at 4-year colleges.”

Wood, J. L., & Harris III, F. (2015). The effect of college selection factors on persistence: An examination of Black and Latino males in the community college. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 16(4), 511–535. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “The purpose of this study was to understand the relationship (if any) between college selection factors and persistence for Black and Latino males in the community college. Using data derived from the Educational Longitudinal Study, backwards stepwise logistic regression models were developed for both groups. Findings are contextualized in light of Paulsen and St. John’s (1996) financial nexus model. In line with this model, this study found that financial matters indeed impacted college selection. In particular, this research illustrated that the availability of financial aid and low expenses at the institution were integral selection factors. Implications for future research are extended.”

Other Resources

Hawley, T. H., & Harris, T. A. (2006). Student characteristics related to persistence for first-year community college students. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 7(1–2). Abstract retrieved from

From the abstract: “This study analyzed student characteristics that impact persistence among first-year students attending a large, metropolitan community college. The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) Freshmen Survey was administered to first-time students during orientation. Factor analysis was used to classify students’ personality and behavioral characteristics and discriminant function analysis was used to predict retention or attrition. The discriminant model accurately predicted retention in 78.8 percent of the cases. Findings suggested that student characteristics impacting persistence can be classified into three categories: barriers, motivations and aspirations, and expectations. Among the strongest predictors of attrition were the number of developmental classes required, the intention to transfer to a four-year institution, and the expectation that English as a second language could be a problem for college students. Among the strongest predictors of persistence were being African American or Latino, cumulative GPA, and the length of time students plan to spend at the college. Recommendations are shared for how community college administration, faculty, and staff can work with students and the community to raise student expectations, motivation, and preparation long before they become first-year college students.”

Additional Organization to Consult

Excelencia in Education—

From the website: “Excelencia in Education accelerates Latino student success in higher education by providing data-driven analysis of the educational status of Latinos, and by promoting education policies and institutional practices that support their academic achievement. A not-for-profit organization founded in 2004 in Washington, DC, Excelencia in Education has become a trusted information source on the status of Latino educational achievement, a major resource for influencing policy at the institutional, state, and national levels, and a widely recognized advocate for expanding evidence-based practices to accelerate Latino student success in higher education. Excelencia is also building a network of results-oriented educators and policymakers to address the U.S. economy’s need for a highly educated workforce and for civic leadership.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

(“Hispanic males” OR “Latino males”) AND (“nontraditional” OR “returning adults” OR “educationally unprepared” OR “over 25 first time enrolled in college”) AND (“community college”) AND (“strategies” OR “scaled programs” OR “retention success” OR “persistence”)

Databases and Resources

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of over 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences. Additionally, we searched Google Scholar and PsychInfo.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the Publication: References and resources published for the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were included in the search and review.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published and/or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations and academic databases, including ERIC, EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, PsychInfo, PsychArticle, and Google Scholar.
  • Methodology: The following methodological priorities/considerations were given in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized controlled trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, etc., generally in this order; (b) target population, samples (representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected, etc.), study duration, etc.; and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, etc.

This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the West Region (Arizona, California, Nevada, Utah), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory West at WestEd. This memorandum was prepared by REL West under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education's Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-00014524, administered by WestEd. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. government.