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Harvard Invites UTD Scholars to Present
RICHARDSON, Texas (Sept. 25, 2003) - A group of scholars from The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) has been invited by Harvard University to present its research on barriers that discourage some first-generation Latino students from pursuing higher educational opportunities beyond community colleges.
A research paper will be presented Oct. 11 at a national conference titled "Community Colleges and Latino Educational Opportunity" on Harvard's campus in Cambridge, Mass. The conference, sponsored by The Civil Rights Project at Harvard and the Pew Hispanic Center of the University of Southern California's Annenberg School for Communication, will feature the work of 25 top educators and researchers from around the country.
The UTD researchers, in a paper called "New Challenges for Community Colleges: Latino Immigrants and the Transfer Process," will address the low transfer rates to four-year schools for some Latino students and the social, cultural and institutional barriers these students encounter in transferring. The UTD group studied first-generation college students, some of whom were born in the United States to parents who immigrated from Mexico and Central America and others who were born in Mexico or Central America and immigrated to the U.S.
"The paper goes beyond the literature and addresses the diversity among the Mexican and Central American immigrant populations and demonstrates that different groups within these populations encounter similar but different transfer obstacles," said Dr. Bobby C. Alexander, an associate professor of sociology at UTD and one of the paper's authors.
Among the factors identified by the UTD researchers as barriers to transfer by Latinos to four-year colleges are:
In addition to Alexander, others involved in the study were Dr. Laura Gonzalez, a U. T. Dallas research scientist; Dr. Dan O'Brien, an assistant professor of economics at UTD; and Dr. Victor Garcia of Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP), who served as a visiting research scientist at UTD. Alexander, Gonzalez and O'Brien currently teach in UTD's School of Social Sciences.
The Harvard paper is based, in part, on ethnographic observations made by the researchers during a four-year project funded by the United States' Department of Education's Fund for the Improvement of Postsecondary Education . The project sought to recruit and retain Latino students and transfer them from two-year schools in the Dallas County Community College District (DCCCD) to four-year schools, utilizing an ethnographic field school in Oak Cliff, which has Dallas' largest concentration of Latinos.
The paper combines qualitative findings with quantitative information from DCCCD and UTD's Texas Schools Microdata Panel, part of a project to track and improve the performance of Texas public school students. The researchers utilize these data both to demonstrate the varied transfer rates and problems of the students studied and to compare their transfer profile to other underrepresented racial and ethnic minorities and to whites.
According to the researchers' findings, only one in seven Latino students throughout Texas (14.1 percent) who start their college experience at a community college have some four-year college experience during the next seven years, and less than half of those students (5.4 percent) earn a bachelor's degree. The comparable rates for white students statewide are 21.1 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively.
In Dallas County, the numbers for Latinos are even lower - only one in nine (11.3 percent) who start at community college obtain some four-year college experience and 4.6 percent earn a bachelor's degree, versus 22.8 percent and 12.2 percent, respectively, for whites.
"While the paper focuses on Dallas County and other metropolitan regions in Texas, it has national significance, since the barriers to education and to the transfer process are common to these Latino populations across the nation," UTD's Gonzalez said.
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