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Blogs Robert Tomason Writer


Guidance, mentoring and advising are key success factors for Latino college students, and in many higher education institutions are not adequate. In some settings there is a disinclination to understand and respond to the special needs of Latino students. For example, from here, an often heard refrain in the institutions that are doing a poor job of graduating Latino students with IT-related degrees is, "We treat everybody equally." The colleges and universities that are more successful are more likely to tailor support services in ways that leverage the strengths of Latino culture and family dynamics. For example, there are increasing examples of institutions successfully using peer and group-based support systems with Latino students.


For reasons noted above, Latinos are much more likely to start their post-secondary education in a community college. While this has many advantages in terms of convenience and cost, the data are relatively clear that attending a community college will tend to depress the probability of completing a bachelor's degree. While this is part of a general trend for Latinos to attend less selective institutions (which depresses the rate of downstream degree completion) there are factors that are unique to the community college setting. For one, many of the course offerings are tailored to increasing job skills and may not transfer to a four-year degree program. Second, while varying widely across states, articulation agreements between public two-year and public four- year institutions tend to be a chronic problem .


Clearly, a number of factors work against a young Latino having success in attaining the educational credentials that would lead to a technology-related career, whether in information technology and computers or a number of other knowledge-intensive pursuits. To summarize those factors, consider the following typical scenario:

During high school, a Hispanic student is likely to steer clear of the more difficult courses in the curriculum, particularly those that focus on advanced math or science. Advanced Placement courses are less likely to be taken even if they are offered at their school, and in contrast to his/her non-Hispanic peers, there is likely to be little thought or planning given to college choices until late in the junior year or thereafter. The parents and siblings, if they have not gone to college themselves, will be able to provide little guidance or advice other than general encouragement. There will be many pressures to attend a college close to home, and to live at home while attending college. Out of state college will usually not be considered, particularly if the student is a young woman. During high school a pattern of working after school and on weekends will be established and encouraged — and expected to continue while in college. The most likely post-secondary choice will be a community college that is close and can be reached easily, perhaps via public transportation. Career goals are vague, and even if the student has some interest in majoring in "computers," there is likely to be little understanding or experience in what that means in the real world.