A college education is becoming more of the norm than in the past. However, choosing the right college or university setting can be a challenge, especially for students in minority- groups.
In December, the national Postsecondary Education Cooperative released its report, “Deciding on Postsecondary Education: Final Report.”
The analysis was qualitative, and not quantitative, but included both a literature review on the topic and an analysis on several minority focus groups. The findings from the focus groups reviewed the various methods minority students use to make informed decisions on their postsecondary education. The students who were interviewed in the focus groups were in the process of searching for a college and making decisions about attending.
In addition, the report focused specifically on underserved students, including minority, low- to moderate- socioeconomic class and students older than 22.
Westat, a contract research organization, conducted both the literature review and the 11 focus groups, which had approximately 90 total participants. The literature review examining over 80 sources revealed that the principal resources for college information came from guidance counselors, media and college brochures/marketing, as well as parents.
For new high school graduates, web-online based resources were the predominant sources for researching on institutions. Parents continue to play the most vital role in the decision making for all students, regardless of race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status (SES). However, both Hispanic and African-American students were more susceptible to public relations materials and advertisements in their communities than students of other racial/ethnic groups.
Overall, students applied and chose institutions based on three main areas: convenience/location, cost, and major/programs of study at the university. For students of traditional age (18-22), enrollment is strongly influenced by parental encouragement, student achievement in high school and parents’ educational level.
Hispanic students deciding to attend Hispanic-Serving Institutions listed the three main decision factors as: “cost, proximity to where they lived, and an accessible (i.e., nonselective) campus”.
Latinas Often Lack Family Backing
The report illustrated differing cultural views on educational attainment. For example, Hispanic women in college said they felt “familial pressures to maintain traditional gender roles-roles that often did not include postsecondary education.” For them, parents often were not supportive at all during the college-selection process. Those Hispanic families that supported college education typically encouraged the student to attend college near home, citing as the reason that “they need the support of their families.” Students frequently said they had to choose between the more traditional path of staying with their families and their aspirations to attend college.
A study cited in the literature review, the National Study of Student Learning, found that first-generation students, specifically Hispanic women, “had lower degree aspirations, had lower family income, received less encouragement from family to attend college, spent less time with peers, spent less time talking to teachers.”
The research demonstrated that students who explored the college or institution before attending were more likely to have overall success and retention.
Based on the overall findings, it appears that minority students and their families specifically need more comprehensive and easily accessible information on colleges and universities, as well as additional resources, assistance and clear direction from high school counselors.
The study is available online at:
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