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The Role of Community College First-Year Experience Programs in Promoting Transfer Among Latino Male Students

  • Author(s): Pena, Mauro Ivan
  • Advisor(s): Rhoads, Robert
  • et al.

Latina/os are one of the fastest growing populations nationwide. In California, Latino males make up 33% of the total male population. While Latino males in the state are opting to pursue a higher education, only 18% are enrolled in public four-year institutions. Most Latino males begin their academic trajectory in community colleges and aspire to transfer to four-year universities. Unfortunately, community colleges are struggling to retain and transfer Latino males, and literature attributes this to both environmental and institutional factors. Although overall, Latino males struggle in community colleges, those who participate in First-Year Experience (FYE) programs have demonstrated higher persistence rates that in turn, lead to transfer. Multiple studies highlight how involvement in FYE leads to greater student academic success. While these studies document the overall success of Latina/o students, the number of studies examining the role of FYE programs in facilitating transfer among male students is limited. This study aimed to address this research gap by examining the role that FYE program components have in promoting transfer among Latino male students.

A qualitative case study approach was used to examine the components in two FYE programs that promote transfer among study participants. Participants included four groups: current Latino male students, Latino male alumni, FYE counselors, and FYE coordinators. Data collection strategies, including semi-structured interviews, site observations, and data analysis, were used to build a greater understanding of how FYE program components promote transfer. Data were analyzed through a community cultural wealth perspective focused on positively highlighting the qualities that Latino male students bring to higher education settings. Findings suggest that the greatest challenges faced by Latino male students included help-seeking behaviors, frustration in the length of time it takes to transfer, and financial responsibilities. Results from the study also show that FYE program components that proved most influential in promoting transfer was not due to one single component, but rather, a set of interrelated components. Primarily, students and alumni identified familial and welcoming environments that helped them develop their help-seeking behaviors as most influential in preparing for transfer. Findings inform current FYE program practitioners on how FYE programs help promote transfer among Latino male students. Findings also have implications for educational leaders and policymakers who are trying to understand what FYE program components are most successful in promoting transfer and what components can be scaled up.

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