In honor of family, in pursuit of a better life : the experience of Latino freshmen during the first year of university study

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Date

2002-05

Authors

Cantu, Rene, Jr.

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Abstract

This study explores the causes of Latino student departure during the first semester of the freshman year at a public, metropolitan university in south Texas. Based on seven structured interviews with Latino freshmen, the researcher used a qualitative approach to examine the causes of Latino student departure as well as the interrelation and strength of these factors. Rather than utilizing preexisting theories about student departure (e.g., Vincent Tinto’s theory of student departure), this study sought to illuminate the experiences and concerns of Latino students using a grounded inductive approach. In the concluding chapter, an alternative explanatory model of student departure—The Family-Based Model of Persistence/Departure—is described. The first chapter of the study examined and applied the ideas of various education researchers whose work is considered critical in nature (Richard Valencia, Doug Foley, Jim Scheurich). Their ideas were used as tools to analyze the work of Vincent Tinto, whose theories about student departure have been quite influential in the field of higher education retention. Tinto’s work was selected for analysis because of its problematic language and its widespread acceptance. One of the essential elements of this study was its extensive use of student interviews and focus groups. Focus groups with students who had both persisted and departed the institution pointed to a series of critical factors that affected student persistence or departure in the first phase of this study. Focus group findings were used as the basis for the interview guide that was used with seven participants who comprised the second phase of this study study. The use of interviews and focus groups enabled the researcher to set aside preexisting assumptions and let the voices of students provide a different view of the student departure process. Chapter Six outlines the Family-Based Model (FBM) and compares and contrasts it to Tinto’s Model of Institutional Departure (MID). The FBM complements the MID and other theories by framing the student departure process from the perspective of students. In contrast, the MID takes an institutional view of the process of student departure. The FBM theorizes that family is the primary variable affecting the college experience of Latino Freshmen. Its application and utility may extend to other racial and ethnic groups who are undergoing the process of cultural transition.

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