Dreams Interrupted: A Mixed-Methods Research Project Exploring Latino College Completion

47 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2021 Last revised: 16 Mar 2022

See all articles by Kate Elengold

Kate Elengold

UNC School of Law

Jess Dorrance

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Center for Urban and Regional Studies

Amanda Martinez

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Patricia Foxen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Paul Mihas

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Odum Institute for Research in Social Science

Date Written: September 9, 2021

Abstract

Latino students are entering college at record numbers; Today, almost 3.8 million Latinos are enrolled in colleges and universities across the United States. Yet Latino students trail their White and Asian peers in attaining college degrees. The overall completion gap exceeds ten percent-age points. Although scholars and advocates have pointed to several different barriers facing Latino college students, a persistent narrative focuses on Latino students’ aversion to taking on student debt. In response, researchers at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill and UnidosUS undertook a multi-year mixed-method study to test and interrogate whether and how debt aversion affects Latino college completion. We sought to better understand how the current debt-driven higher education system affects college completion, paying particular attention to the barriers disproportionately affecting Latino students.

Primary Findings:
1.Although Latino students exhibit education debt aversion at higher rates than non-Latinos, that aversion to borrowing is deliberate, deeply connected to a desire to protect their families, and a reasonable response to external barriers to college access and completion. In other words, debt aversion is not an extricable or singular explanation for the college completion gap for Latino students.
2.Transportation is often the single thread holding together a precarious balancing act that allows the student to attend school while juggling multiple other responsibilities. Because transportation cuts across responsibilities related to work, school, and home, when that thread is broken, everything can unravel.

Suggested Citation

Elengold, Kate and Dorrance, Jess and Martinez, Amanda and Foxen, Patricia and Mihas, Paul, Dreams Interrupted: A Mixed-Methods Research Project Exploring Latino College Completion (September 9, 2021). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3920591 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3920591

Kate Elengold (Contact Author)

UNC School of Law ( email )

Van Hecke-Wettach Hall, 160 Ridge Road
CB #3380
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3380
United States

Jess Dorrance

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Center for Urban and Regional Studies ( email )

108 Battle Ln
CB #3410
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3410
United States

Amanda Martinez

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Patricia Foxen

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Paul Mihas

University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill - Odum Institute for Research in Social Science

Chapel HIll, NC 27599
United States

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