Cuentenme sus historias: stories of persistence as told by first-generation Latina/o students
While colleges and universities around the country are becoming increasingly more diverse, the data on national retention rates indicate that institutions are not doing better jobs of retaining students despite all the initiatives that have been implemented over the last ten years. In fact, the attrition rate for Latina/os was 29.2 percent and 30.1 percent for African Americans. On the other hand, the rates for Asians and Whites were 14.9 percent and 18.8 percent respectively. According to the ACE Report, only 36.4 percent of African Americans and 42 percent of Latina/os had earned bachelor's degrees compared to 62.3 percent of their Asian and 58 percent of their White counterparts. These figures clearly illustrate a great disparity in the educational outcomes of Latina/os compared to that of Whites despite the increased enrollment of Latina/os in higher education. Given the compelling need to address the outcomes of an increasingly diverse undergraduate student population, I focused this study specifically on the interplay between sociocultural factors and institutional support as related to the experiences of first-generation Latina/o students attending a predominantly White institution (PWI). By exploring the interaction between these factors, this study offers insights into aspects of these students' life experiences that impact their persistence. Three questions that guided this study are: 1) What role does family play in the persistence of first-generation Latina/o students attending the PWI? 2) What role does institutional support play in the persistence of first-generation Latina/o students attending the PWI? 3) What role do peer networks play in the persistence of first-generation Latina/o students attending the PWI? These questions directed the qualitative research process and are based on a framework introduced by Stanton-Salazar (2001) who explored the experiences of low-income Mexican origin adolescents from immigrant families attending urban high schools using the concepts of social capital as well as peer, familial, and institutional support. These concepts have been positioned centrally to my research as they remain salient to understanding the experiences of first-generation Latina/o students once they enter higher education institutions.