Promoting development of cultural capital : an intervention study for the retention of Latino college students at a predominantly White university
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Current literature on Latino college student retention and attrition suggests that Latinos as a whole are becoming more successful at gaining admission to institutions of higher education. However, there is a need for support, guidance, and mentorship in order to ensure success once admitted. This study sought to test the effectiveness of a brief intervention for first year Latina/o undergraduate students at UT Austin, a predominantly White university. Sixty-nine participants were randomized into two groups, an experimental group (Educational Capital Guide Group) (n = 34) and a control group (n = 35). The intervention was based on Bourdieu’s Social Capital Theory and was designed to facilitate adjustment to college for Latinas/os. The two forms of Bourdieu’s capital addressed in this study were: the embodied state (i.e., knowledge individuals acquire via social membership), and the objectified state (i.e., physical resources accessible to an individual). Effects of the intervention were measured by observing changes in five outcome variables (i.e., academic worry, academic self-efficacy, anxiety, depression, and perceived university environment) from pre- to post-intervention for each group, as well as a comparison of GPA and novel on-campus resource use. Changes in outcome variables across college generation status for intervention participants were also assessed. Results indicated a statistically significant difference in perceptions of the university environment between experimental groups from pre- to post-intervention, but on no other outcome variables. Participants in the intervention group marginally outperformed control participants in end-of-semester GPA by the completion of their first semester. Similarly, participants in the intervention group used slightly more novel on-campus resources at posttest. Among intervention participants, although second generation college students reported statistically greater anxiety at both assessment periods, no between-group differences were found in responses to the intervention. Cultural and demographic variables that were found to be predictive of outcome variables, as well as a description of participant responses to their first semester at UT are discussed. The findings of this study offer implications for future intervention studies using social capital with Latinos as well as practices that should be addressed on an institutional level to support ethnic minority students’ success in higher education.