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Latino/a/x Student Success: A Review of Institutional Practices to Better Understand and Support Students’ Multiple and Intersecting Identities in Higher Education


There is an increase of Latino/a/x students enrolling in higher education in the United States. Yet, Latino students’ retention and graduation rates continue to be significantly lower compared to White students (Musu-Gillette et al., 2016). In part, this problem stems from how higher education institutional practices have maintained one-size-fits-all models to support Latino/a/x students without considering the diversity within this complex group defined by their multiple and intersecting identities. Research shows that underrepresented students, such as Latino students, struggle in college and in their transition for different reasons (Carter, Hurtado, & Spuler, 1996; Harackiewicz et al., 2014; Hurtado, 1994). Therefore, higher education institutions must create a college community that promotes social and intellectual integration to strengthen student commitment (Gentry, 2014) and sustain updated efforts by dedicating time in collaborating with students (Espinoza & Espinoza, 2012) since both student and institutional variables influence college persistence (Titus, 2004). Since there is a lack of research and understanding of Latino/a/x students’ within-group differences, this study examined higher educational institutional practices aimed to support Latino/a/x students’ multiple and intersecting identities to identify how to enhance institutional efforts to ensure Latino/a/x student success. In particular, California Community College system was central to the study since the vast majority of Latino students enroll in these higher education institutions (California Postsecondary Education Commission, 2018a). The aim of this study was to argue that the relationship between student and institution must be intentional and well-coordinated since current higher education institutional practices designed to support the needs of students of color such as Latino/a/x students may not be fully supporting their multiple and intersecting identities. This dissertation stresses how critical it is for an institution to dig deeper into the Latino/a/x students’ lives to understand and validate their diverse experiences in order to provide intentional and sustainable practices where students can explore their complex identities and ultimately meet their holistic needs. Doing so can lead a higher education institution to proactively understand their Latino/a/x student population and improve institutional practices that may contribute to an overall student success including higher retention and graduation rates (Hurtado, 1994).

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