Despite the growing numbers of Hispanic students in Texas high schools, college access and retention remains a critical challenge (Krogstad, 2016). Although college enrollment for Hispanics has risen, with 35% of Hispanics 18 years and older enrolling in college (Krogstad, 2016), Hispanics continue to fall behind in obtaining a college degree. As of 2014, only 15% of Hispanics 25 years or older had a bachelor’s degree, as compared to 41% of Whites and 63% of Asians (Krogstad, 2016). This achievement gap is particularly evident in the underrepresentation of Latinx students enrolled in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) majors (Crisp & Nora, 2012). Latinx students have demonstrated a growing interest in engineering programs, but converting interest into science technology engineering and math (STEM) degrees continues to challenge educators (Crisp & Nora, 2012). Latinx students may not complete a STEM degree due to a lack of academic preparation, familial responsibilities, or lack of cultural congruity with their major (Cole & Espinoza, 2008; Crisp & Nora, 2012). Flores (2011) also identifies structural factors, such as financial obstacles, prejudice and discrimination, or lack of mentorship as key obstacles to STEM fields. Addressing challenges associated with Latinx student access and persistence in engineering is critical as the population continues to rise. College readiness efforts, such as dual credit programs, can help address the achievement gap confronting Latinx students interested in engineering fields.
Supported by funding from the Greater Texas Foundation, this study is part of a three-year longitudinal, qualitative research project that examines the academic and social experiences of Latinx engineering students who enrolled in an HSI with dual credits. Yosso’s Community Cultural Wealth Model (2005) was employed as a strengths-based approach to help guide this study. Through interviews, observations and field notes, and analytic memos, the following research questions were explored: 1) How do Latinx students learn about dual credit? 2) Why do students pursue dual credit courses?, and 3) How does participation in dual credit inform students’ first year in an engineering program? Implications and directions for future research are summarized below.
The lack of parental engagement with dual credit is a lost opportunity as Yosso (2005) suggests that aspirational and familial capital can be powerful resources in supporting students into and through their higher educational experiences. Therefore, we suggest high schools mail letters to students’ parents, send dual credit information via email or text, or host informational meet- ings about dual credit at local businesses or community centers. Schools can also collaborate with major industries in the area to offer dual credit sessions during office hours. Future research can explore relationships between K-16 institutions and com- munity stakeholders to explore avenues for collectively organizing a college-going culture. As the Latinx population continues to grow in the U.S., it is important to understand how Latinx students gain knowledge of and access to college readiness oppor- tunities, such as dual credit, in order to promote a college-going culture within schools, communities, and families to cultivate a more educated and equitable society.
For Dr. Ozuna All, Ms. Laird Thompson, and Dr. Martinez-Cosio’s full brief click here.
For the rest of the brief series click here.