Latinas who get academic counseling more likely to go to college

Woman in her graduationUse of college-counseling services is more important in predicting college enrollment by Latinas than a consistent record of high academic achievement, according to an analysis published in Harvard Educational Review. For Latinos, the best predictors are academic achievement, parental expectations and language proficiency.

Parental expectations for boys were highly correlated with their academic performance and college enrollment. But teachers were more accurate than parents at predicting which girls would eventually enroll in college, the analysis shows. Researchers say Latinas may be less influenced by parental expectations or they may rely less on family than school agents for emotional support.

15-year longitudinal study

The findings, based on an analysis of a 15-year study of 121 Latino and Latina youth in metropolitan Los Angeles contrast with previous research, which did not find gender differences, the authors note. Unlike many other studies, this research did not compare the college enrollment of Latinos with other ethnic groups, but rather looked at what distinguishes Latinos who enroll in college from those who do not.

Better understanding of these gender differences could bolster college enrollment of Latinos and Latinas, who continue to be underrepresented in higher education, according to Maria Estela Zarate of the University of Southern California and Ronald Gallimore of UCLA and LessonLab Research Institute.

A range of current outreach programs, college admissions strategies, and K-12 interventions so far has had only a modest impact on college enrollment for this population. The researchers analyzed data from the Latino Home School Project (LHSP) which began in 1989 as a longitudinal investigation of 121 Latino youth then entering kindergarten. Parents were interviewed annually and the student was interviewed annually beginning in ninth grade until the year after high school. Teachers rated the students on academics and class engagement from kindergarten through eighth grade.

College-bound Latinas get more help

Throughout most of their academic careers, boys’ scores in both mathematics and reading had a clear connection to future college enrollment. The same pattern did not hold for girls. Academic performance only became a predictor of college enrollment for Latinas in high school. Mathematics test scores were a strong predictor of college enrollment for Latinas.

Almost all college-enrolled girls reported receiving advice (97%) and explanation (91%) for course requirements from counselors, compared with 57% of non-college girls. In fact, the researchers say, “non-college girls seemed to receive little advice about their course selection.” Seventy-four percent of college-bound girls visited specialized college guidance counselors, compared with only 30% of non-college girls; 86% of college-bound girls felt comfortable talking with their counselors, compared with 57% of non-college-bound girls.

“Latina college-enrollment status seems to relate more to their relationships with college counselors and teachers than to academic achievement and parental expectations,” the researchers say.

“Gender Differences in Factors Leading to College Enrollment: A Longitudinal Analysis of Latina and Latino Students” Harvard Educational Review, March 2006, Volume 75, Number 4, Winter 2005 pps. 383-408.

Published in ERN March 2006 Volume 19 Number 3

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