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New Study: Hispanic Students Lack Parental Involvement in College Decision-making

Parents of minority students are less likely to be involved in college-related decision-making with their children than their White counterparts, a new survey by the Higher Education Research Institute indicates.

Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, director of the Higher Education Research Institute, housed on the campus of the University of California, Los Angeles, describes the lack of parental involvement for minority students as troubling, particularly in the case of Hispanic students.

“Latinos historically have had the largest proportion of first-generation college students, and the process of applying to college is unfamiliar to these parents,” Hurtado says. “It places the onus on students to apply for admissions and financial aid, and makes counselors or programs to advise students more essential for this population.”

This year’s data is based on the responses of 272,036 first-time, full-time students at 356 of the nation’s baccalaureate colleges and universities.

The report reveals that White students are far less likely than students of other races or ethnicities to indicate “too little” parental involvement in dealing with college officials. Only 12 percent of White students surveyed reported “too little” involvement from their parents in dealing with college recruiters and counselors, compared to 32 percent of Latinos.

However, John H. Pryor, co-author of the report and director of the Cooperative Institutional Research Program at UCLA, suggests that a lack of parental involvement doesn’t spell disaster for minority students. “When parents intervene in their children’s college life and decision-making, students may not necessarily develop their own problem-solving skills, which may limit developmental gains in their learning experiences,” he says.

In selecting college courses, 43 percent of Latino students reported “too little” involvement from parents, compared with 18.6 percent of White students. Additionally, 43 percent of Latinos reported “too little” involvement in choosing college activities, compared with 16 percent of Whites.

The majority of freshmen considered parental participation in their college careers to be the “right amount.” Specifically, 84 percent of freshmen reported that they had the “right amount” of parental involvement in their decision to go to college. About 80 percent of the students surveyed said they had the “right amount” of feedback from their parents in choosing their college. When it came to dealing with college officials, 77 percent of respondents said that they had the “right amount” of support from their parents.

In the realm of social behavior, the survey reported that attitudes favoring racial diversity and tolerance increased 2 percent this year. Nearly 37 percent of students expressed the personal goal of helping to promote racial understanding. Not surprisingly, the figure is higher among students at Black colleges and universities, where 64 percent said it is an essential or very important personal goal.

Interest in the global community increased as well. When this item was first placed on the questionnaire in 2002, following 9/11, 43.2 percent of students indicated that they had an interest in improving their understanding of other countries and cultures; in 2007 that group became a majority, at 52.3 percent.

“It is encouraging to see more students interested in the global community,” says Dr. Carol Geary Schneider, president of the Association of American Colleges and Universities. “Our shared futures will depend on the next generation of college students having a much more sophisticated understanding of global interconnections than previous generations.”



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