UTSA researchers find ways to help Latino students be successful in higher education

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(Oct. 14, 2014) -- The UTSA Center for Research and Policy in Education released a report focused on Latino student success that finds ways to help this typically underserved population. The report, "Ventajas/Assets y Conocimientos/Knowledge, Leveraging Latin@ Strengths to Foster Student Success," looks at the advantages and disadvantages Latino students face when entering college and focuses on leveraging strengths.

Led by UTSA professors Laura Rendón and Amaury Nora and Vijay Kanagala of the University of Vermont, the study found that students who come from Latino backgrounds could use their cultural wealth and experiences to transcend socioeconomic circumstances that might otherwise hold them back.

Because these assets are not always gained through formal education, educators might not look at these strengths as a means to overcome obstacles.

"Students can develop strengths through lived experiences, cultural traditions and life challenges, which help them become survivors and move past hurdles," said Rendón, the study's lead researcher.

The research also found that Latino students often struggle through college because of the multiple worlds they juggle including academia, familial responsibilities and their former communities. But, their sense of responsibility to give back to their communities could potentially help them push themselves further in their education.

Likewise, other challenges they face could work as assets. For example, students can learn to use their bilingualism to their advantage, and if they are able to manage both worlds, they could develop critical high-level cognitive skills.

"Relying on this framework rather than one which looks at Latino students as deficient can help college faculty and support staff to serve Latino students during their higher education careers," said Nora, the study's co-researcher.

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For more information on the study, contact the UTSA Center for Research and Policy Studies in Education.

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