Staying or leaving: Mexican-American students relate their first-year college experience

Pilar Cotera Herrera, University of Texas at El Paso


The issue of educational achievement and of college-going and persistence for Hispanics, a population which the 2000 census indicated is increasing both in actual numbers and as a percentage of the total population, is of concern to the whole nation, but of urgent concern to the context area of the study, where Hispanics constitute the majority in the city, the schools, and the university. A major collaborative effort in the past few years to raise the level of K–12 education for all students and to increase the number of students continuing to higher education has resulted in significant gains for Hispanic students. However, there are still gaps between Hispanic students and their white, non-Hispanic counterparts in pre-college educational achievement, rates of high school graduation and college enrollment, and persistence beyond the first year of college. ^ Since 1990, the university has made it a priority to institute programs and organizational structures that promoted and supported student retention and success. Attention was primarily focused on entering students during their initial year in college. About 2,300 first-time, full-time freshmen entered the university in Fall 2001. Of those, 74% were Hispanic. The one-year retention rate in the 2001 cohort of entering freshmen was 70%. Continuing research (e.g. new student survey, leavers' surveys) on entering freshman is conducted by the university's office of institutional research. ^ This qualitative study was an effort to enhance, deepen, and refine the understanding of college-enrollment, persistence and attrition behaviors of Mexican-American entering freshmen. The purpose was to capture the experience of a group of first-time, full-time Mexican-American freshmen, who entered the study university in the fall of 2001, and who were either still registered or who were no longer registered in the fall of 2002. Using a constructivist approach, the endeavor was to elicit “stories” that would illustrate key experiences in the college-going process and to understand how the students constructed and give meaning to their experiences. These stories of college experience would contribute insight into how the university could make this process more successful for more students. (Abstract shortened by UMI.) ^

Subject Area

Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Guidance and Counseling|Education, Higher

Recommended Citation

Herrera, Pilar Cotera, "Staying or leaving: Mexican-American students relate their first-year college experience" (2004). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI3125515.