College Choices: Parental Involvement and Latino Students

Hello Hispanic Pundit readers! Hispanic CREO – real name, Anne – guestblogging for the first time today. I’ll be dropping in occasionally to comment on some of the educational issues currently affecting the Latino community. If you like what you read, please visit my blog, The Daily Grito. Also, leave comments – they’re great!

Today’s topic: Latino Parental Involvement in College-Related Decisions

More than a third of Latino college freshman report that their parents are involved “too little” in their college-related decisions, according to a report published yesterday by The Higher Education Research Institute (HERI). The report, which surveyed over 270,000 students across the country, revealed that 32% of Hispanic freshman desire greater parental involvement in dealing with college officials, and 43% of students want more parental help in choosing college courses and college activities.

It’s no secret that parental involvement increases academic performance in elementary and secondary schools, but scant research has been conducted to evaluate the effects of parental involvement on the academic achievement of college students. In fact, while researching this post, I could not find a single study that evaluated college students’ academic achievement in relation to parental involvement.

So, what does the HERI study mean for Latino students? Well, firstly, it offers some motivation for parents to become more involved in their children’s college choices. Even if we don’t yet have research to say so, there is little doubt that parental involvement yields positive results. Of course, this is not something that parents can necessarily “go alone.” Today, 49% of Latino college students are first generation college students – which means that their parents need information and support about how to navigate the college system and help their children be successful in higher education. This is a good prospect for non-profit organizations – perhaps the College Parents of America – as well as colleges and universities.

Secondly, the research indicates that even with increased parental support, Latino students may need more general assistance to make important decisions about their college careers. This is where colleges and universities come in. As the Latino population grows and more Hispanic students enter college, institutions of higher learning will have to adapt to serve the needs of these students – especially first generation college students. Orientation programs for minority students, personalized and intensive academic counseling and peer support groups are all good starting points and can offer many benefits to Latinos in college.

With greater parental involvement and institutional support, we can begin to increase the number of Latino students who make good choices about college – and make themselves successful graduates.

7 Responses to “College Choices: Parental Involvement and Latino Students”

  • You’re right, there’s not that much research out there on how students’ parents impact their college achievement. There is a lot on their role in the college choice process — whether they go to college or not. I have friends who have studied this and they generally find that the parental support for Latinos isn’t about picking their classes or advising them academically, but more like simply being there.

    My parents’ support came both financially and emotionally.

  • Something I have noticed when talking to successful latin@s that excelled in college is that they almost all had a strong form of parental involvement. Often one parent that is a school teacher or an educator of some sort. Such a common theme that I am now surprised to find those who tell me otherwise.

    When that research is eventually done on how students parents impact their college achievement I would not be surprised if the correlation coefficient is greater than 0.8.

  • It isn’t often I agree with you… but this is a no-brainer. While there isn’t much research on the degrees of parental involvement with college students, you do find that there is a certain expectation within certain households about post secondary achievement. If families are supportive and can understand the sacrifices (financially and socially), their college students will increase their chances to persist and graduate.

  • I agree with all of you, but I also think that it is necessary to push the debate further. What does it actually mean to be “supportive”? What types of support are necessary to ensure the students’ success?

    Even in elementary and secondary school studies, different forms of “support” have different effects. If we were able to conclusively determine WHAT forms of support were most effective, we would be able to actually teach these to parents so that they could help their children in college.

    In conclusion, yes, it is important for parents to support their children – but the kinds of support that they give are also important.

  • Very interesting topic. I and a lot of my friends somehow made it through college and grad school with virtually no parental support. No guidance, really. We had to figure it out on our own. It would have been nice to have parental support, but it wasn’t in the cards.

    My compadre says that his parents only help to him was sometimes sending him canned food while he was at UCLA.

  • Good point TacoSam. Just to clarify, I didn’t mean parental support as in financial support of any type or tutoring. I meant parental support as in having a heavy hand in stressing how important education is. Whether it be talking to teachers, attending PTA meetings, whatever, just an overall strong and clear message of the importance of education.

    Much more so than, “mijito, you gotta finish school”, which is typically the case with most of my non-college friends (and with myself, no strong education message in my household).

  • Glad to hear about the importance of Family Involvement at the college level. I work with first generation incoming Freshmen and see the importance of parental involvement. I see it from a parent perspective, but also as a professional-I was a Family Involvement Coordinator at the University and tried to start a Family Center at this level, and was met with some strong opposition. The only thing that is available at this level is a Handbook and Family Orientation for New Student Registration. I am looking forward to more research on the topic.

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