Hispanic students are a very special group of non-traditional learners that form the basis for the existence of Hispanic-Serving Institutions. They are usually identified as non-traditional students because of the set of needs that characterized them. Hispanic learners usually have to cope with a lower socioeconomic status than whites, lower basic skills, many family and work responsibilities, difficult conditions of discrimination, being the first generation to attend college, and only being able to attend college on part-time basis. Another important factor involved in determining Hispanics’ pathway toward college success is delayed enrollment (Fry, 2004).
Mitchell (2005) stresses the importance of dealing with educational attainment rates at colleges and community colleges in order to help Hispanic students succeed in their college education. Individual factors, behaviors, and life events are key contributors to the gap between Hispanics’ and whites’ college education, success, and completion (Mitchell, 2005).
According to Laden (2004), the most impact has resulted from projects that align student support services with academic programs to provide supportive environments for students who struggle with their competing priorities in life. Supplemental instruction activities, for instance, are continuously mentioned as some of the most successful approaches in dealing with student success and retention. Interestingly, the most frequently emphasized problem among students in Hispanic Serving Institutions is precisely lack of basic skills. At the same time, dealing with basic skills is usually recognized as the path to follow if student success is to be achieved. Among other effective projects pointed out as best practices are those that focus on academic and career planning, curricular innovation, and customized programming.
Colleges are adapting their activities to the needs of Hispanic learners by renovating curriculum delivery and providing support services that facilitate college success (Mitchell, 2005). Student success and retention strategies need to respond to the realities and nature of both students and institutions. Moreover, interventions need to reflect the particularities of the student population at each institution. Student success and retention strategies based on the traditional student are inappropriate at HSIs, especially when 69% of students are enrolled part-time and have many obligations besides school (Laden, 2004).
Fry, R. (2004). Latino Finishing College: The Role of Selective Pathways. Pew Hispanic Center Report.
Laden, B.V. (2004). Serving Minority Populations: New Directions in Community College. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Mitchell, L. (2005). Can Distance Education Help Hispanic Student Retention? Unpublished Master’s Thesis: New Mexico State University.