Persistence and degree attainment: The role of individual decision making, various forms of capital, and institutional factors among Mexican-American undergraduate students




Hernandez, Eliza Aguirre

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The purpose of this dissertation research was to analyze a nationally representative dataset of first-year beginning students to examine the factors that affect Mexican-origin Latinos undergraduate students' persistence and degree attainment outcomes. Several theoretical perspectives are used in this research in order to address the complex pathways that influence college persistence and completion, particularly among Mexican-origin Latinos relative to students from other racial/ethnic groups, gender and immigration status of students. The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study (BPS: 04/06) served as the data source for this research and the sample included two-year and four-year public and private institutions of higher education. The analysis strategy involved an examination of whether or not all of the variables of interest were distributed evenly among students who persisted or left school using chi-square tests of equal distributions. The study's dichotomous dependent variable necessitated the use of logistic regression models. The results found that in the full two and four-year sample, demographic, socioeconomic characteristics and environmental pull factors were associated with persistence. Results from the race stratified logistic regression model indicated that among Mexican-origin students, there were fewer characteristics that differed among those students that persisted and those students who did not persist. However, Mexican-origin students attending Hispanic-Serving Institutions were slightly more likely to persist than Mexican-origin students attending non-Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Results of the gender stratified logistic regression model indicated differences in immigration status and student persistence. Both male and female first generation students were more likely to persist than third generation students. Although a small number of second generation students were in the sample, second generation male students were less likely to persist compared to third generation students. The results of the institutional stratified models indicated demographic characteristics (gender, race/ethnicity), economic capital (student income, dependency status, financial aid), human capital (high school grade point average, high school advanced mathematics), social capital (belonged to a campus club and met with faculty advisor), cultural capital (mother's educational level: completed college), civic engagement (voted in 2004 presidential election) and institutional characteristics (selectivity) were all found to be positively associated with student persistence.


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Latino Undergraduate, social capital, Student Persistence