The Hispanic Male Perception of Higher Education

Introduction to the Problem

The Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States (2007) reports that 30% of Whites attain a college degree, while only 12.6% of Hispanics in the United States (U.S.) graduate from college. Jana L. Schwartz, Jody Donovan, and Guido-DiBrito, Florence (2009) point out in the quote introducing this study, noted in “Stories of Social Class: Self-Identified Mexican Male College Students Crack the Silence,” that this rate constitutes the lowest graduation rate for any of the ethnic minority groups currently living in the U. S.. Current concerns contributing to the college graduation rate for Hispanics, albeit, appear to begin much earlier. In 2006, according to A. Francesca Jenkins (2009) reports in “The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education,” that during 2006, according to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) 22% of 16 to 24 year-old Latino students dropped out of high school.

Dropping out of high school not only deters one from enrolling in college, it serves to sentence the individual to a life of marginalization, potential poverty, and at its worst, to living on the streets (Jenkins 2009). In Lancaster County, for example, a high school dropout earns approximately $24,000 a year, compared to a college graduate earning approximately $42,000 annually (Stauffer, 2008). As the U.S. Hispanic population comprises the “fastest-growing minority, and is, by 2050, predicted to comprise the largest school-age population” (Jenkins, ¶1), and as according to experts, such as Paul W. Wilson (2007) in “10 Reasons to Go to College,” the reasons to secure a degree add up to more than monetary benefits, increasing the number of Hispanics with college degrees makes sense. In light of these and other critical, contemporary considerations relating to the Hispanic individual, the forthcoming qualitative, grounded theory study proposes to explore certain aspects of the Hispanic male perception of higher education, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic father.

Wilson proposed that “College graduates are self confident, have greater knowledge of governance, are less likely to become criminals, are emotionally and financially secure, make better partners and parents, and have a deeper understanding of human nature” (¶ 7) than individuals who do not earn college degrees. Casado and Dereshiwsky (2007) report in “Cultural diversity in higher education: Implications for hospitality programs,” a need exists in the U.S. to create awareness of cultural diversity. An increasing number of minority students on campus frequently report that they do not feel accepted in the academic arena. In some instances, majority students take over the class, and ignore students of color, which consequently may reinforce the feelings of alienation the under-represented students may sometimes experience. This, in turn, may hinder the personal, academic, and professional development of underrepresented students, such as Hispanics.

In addition to cultural concerns potentially influencing Hispanics in their educational pursuits, Toews and Yazedjian, (2007) point out in “College adjustment among freshmen: Predictors for white and Hispanic males and females,” that although parental support may influence a student, “it may not be the only predictor of college adjustment.” In their study, Toews and Yazedjian assessed numerous personal and interpersonal variables relating to predicting the student’s college adjustment. Toews and Yazedjian (2007) examined a sample of 883 freshmen to determine the extent to which the students’ parental support, self-esteem, parental education, and peer support potentially indicted future adjustment during the student’s first year of college. Toews and Yazedjian also considered predictor variables, such as race and gender in their regression analyses research effort that ultimately revealed that among all participating groups, except Hispanic males, self-esteem proved predictive of better adjustment to college for the freshmen. One particularly powerful, potential interpersonal resource students may draw from when adjusting to college, Toews and Yazedjian contend, may be parental support.

Basically, however, research exploring the relationship between parental support and college adjustment, has not been consistent. In fact, a number of researchers (Toews and Yazedjian, 2007; Casado and Dereshiwsky, 2007) suggested that parental support does not serve as a significant predictor of adjustment. Social support frequently related to both the student’s social, as well as his/her academic adjustment. Studies also purport that parental support impact the student’s adjustment across ethnic groups and gender. Parental support may influence the myriad of unsettling statistics relating to the dearth of Hispanics attaining a college degree, a concern the researcher perceives to be a particularly perplexing problem, relating to the Hispanic male in regard to higher education.

Background of the Study

In “Family acculturation, family leisure involvement and family functioning among Mexican Americans.,” O. D. Christenson, R. B. Zabriskie, D. L Eggett, and P. A.Freeman (2006), recounted the 2003 U.S. Census report that Hispanics constitute 13.7% of the U.S. population, making them the country’s largest minority group. Only 5% of Latinos across the U.S., however, complete postsecondary education. The Pew Hispanic Center reported that while 25% attend community college, only 23% of the population attend a four-year school; however, 47% of Latinos never attend college (Jenkins, 2009, ¶ 4). As the U.S. Census Bureau (2000) reports that the lifetime earnings of a person who holds a bachelor’s degree traditionally totals 75% more than the earnings of an individual with a high school diploma, not having a college degree adversely affects the earnings of the Hispanic male.

T. Olive (2008) purported in “Desire for higher education in first-generation Hispanic college students enrolled in an academic support program: A Phenomenological Analysis,” that numerous empirical studies which examined first-generation college students, those individuals with parents who did not attend college, explored the students’ personality characteristics, cognitive development, academic preparation, and first-year performance. Few studies, however, examine the students’ motivation for seeking higher education. Even fewer studies, Olive noted, target what motivates the pursuit of higher education in Hispanic students. Olive purposed the question: “What is the experience of the desire for higher education in Hispanic First Generation College students enrolled in an academic support program?” The response to Olive’s question stresses the value of the following:

  1. Successful experiences in high school,
  2. the desire for improved socioeconomic status,
  3. a need to contribute to the well-being of others,
  4. a break with tradition, and
  5. The influence of respected role models in facilitating a desire for higher education in these individuals. (Olive, 2008, Summary section ¶ 2)

Work by Schwartz, Donovan, and Guido-DiBrito (2009) echo Olive’s (2008) observations. A few of the themes Schwartz, Donovan, and Guido-DiBrito explored include “the strong influence of cultural and familial messages” and “hope and optimism for their family’s future.” Cicanas authored most of the literature which does not primarily focus on the Latinas as participants. Neither does current literature invest much focus on the identity of Hispanic males. According to Schwartz, Donovan, and Guido-DiBrito, as gender, class, ethnicity, culture, and tradition influence roles in Hispanic males’ social identity, when one understands these influences, this lack of focus on males contributes to overcoming personal and institutional barriers which hinder the Hispanic male’s movement toward academic and social goals.

In her column, “Leaving the boys behind,” Janne Perona (2006) pointed out that across the U.S., schools have high female-to-male ratios on honor rolls, as well as in Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes. For example, New York Times recounted that for the class of 2004 in Arizona, “graduation rates among white students were 88.7 % for females and 83.7 % for males. The percentage gaps were nearly identical for Hispanic, African-American and Asian-American students” (Perona, 2006). Perona added that Latina female students will be 20% more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than their male peers. In addition, middle-income males revealed a 17% higher probability of degree completion than low-income Latino students.

In “Predictors of distress in Chicana college students,” Linda G. Castillo and Robert Hill (2004) identified the terms “Chicana and Chicano” as gender-specific designations that respectively identify Mexican American women and Mexican American men. In their study, Castillo and Hill included only women of Mexican ancestry, primarily describing the women as Chicanas. Castillo and Hill (2004) stressed that differences in gender role socialization may contribute to variances in familial expectations for the family members. As first-generation Chicana students, for instance, face the challenge to overcome barriers to fulfil the demands of the traditional role of wife and mother, this struggle may sometimes conflict with the Chicana’s pursuit of a college education. Research findings indicate that the experiences relating to stress of Chicanas and Chicanos do, in fact, differ. During the proposed study, this indication will be noted: however, the primary pursuit will retain focus on the Hispanic male. Statement of the Problem

Christenson, Zabriskie, Eggett, and Freeman (2006) asserted that a dearth also exists in regard to family research on minority groups. The authors suggested that more research needs to be conducted in this area to ensure the work they complete remains “relevant to policy makers or professionals who work directly with families and children” (Christenson, Zabriskie, Eggett, & Freeman). Despite the paucity of literature conveying specific information relating to the Hispanic male’s academic goals/successes, Schwartz, Donovan, and Guido-DiBrito pointed out, the Hispanic cultural and familial influences present strong influence.

Vãfâ-ctor B. Sãfâienz, assistant professor, University of Texas-Austin, and Luis Ponjuan, assistant professor, University of Flo Sãfâienz rida, explored the contemporary concern of the strong message regarding the unsettling low college graduation rate for Hispanic males in “The Vanishing Latino Male in Higher Education”, according to Frank. DiMaria in “Where have all the Hispanic males gone?” In “The value of familismo,” Sãfâienz, and Ponjuan purported, may ultimately “be accessed to support [Hispanic males] academic achievement” (Sãfâienz, & Ponjuan, as cited in DiMaria, 2008). Despite problems in the area of higher education, the potential exists for more positive participation from not only Latino males, but also their families.

What the current literature does not address, the researcher notes, constitutes yet another relevant consideration: The Hispanic father’s influence in regard to the Hispanic male’s academic goals and success in the realm of higher education. Therefore, the forthcoming study proposes to explore certain aspects of the Hispanic male perception of higher education, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic father. What is not known in this area needs to be understood so that this “growing” educational problem in society may be better addressed; potentially proffering positive counters to concerns that need to be resolved, relating not only to the Hispanic male perception of higher education, but to increasing the Hispanic males potential to attain bachelor, master and doctoral degrees.

Purpose of the Study

James Vaznis (2009) pointed out in “Graduation rate lowest for Hispanic male students declines as other groups make strides” that some Hispanic advocates, argue that numerous schools do not offer enough support for new immigrant students. Schools sometimes place students who do not possess adequate English skills in regular classrooms before they can effectively adjust. Some students may also be permitted to linger too long in isolated programs. In “A grounded theory of high-quality leadership programs: perspectives from student leadership development programs in higher education,” Darin Eich (2008) pointed out that Astin, Astin, and associates assert that the role higher education holds in shaping the quality of leadership in contemporary American society proves vital. In fact, university mission statements mirror the value attributed to educating citizens capable of successfully engaging in the leadership process, and ultimately contributing to the growth of our society.

Eich explained that through the higher educational process, students begin to understand themselves and the world they live in. Prior to the increase of student learning in higher education, when desiring to enroll in college, he/she must not only understand, but be able to pay the costs related to obtaining a 4-year degree. Costs could be bigger than the family’s income. In Higher education handbook of theory and research, John C. Smart (2004) examined the impact tuition fees exert upon an individual’s attainment of a degree. Even though the majority of Americans currently perceive a college degree instead of a high school diploma proves essential for a person to succeed in the labor market, some also distrust higher education. “Increased competition for public funding, decreasing public support for higher education, a lack of coherent state-level strategies for higher education budgeting, and structural deficits in states’ budgets encouraged privatization of services and signaled a decline in state commitment to ensuring postsecondary opportunity for all students,” Smart (2004, p. 59) asserted. Financial constraints and considerations, along with considerations regarding the Hispanic father ‘s role in his son’s educational attainment, the researcher purports, contribute to the decisions the Hispanic male will make in regard to his pursuit to attain a higher education.

The purpose of the proposed study will be to examine certain aspects of the Hispanic male perception of higher education, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic father. Rather than the question underlying the question “Where have all the Hispanic males gone?” the researcher asserts that a more appropriate query for the proposed study would be: How does the Hispanic male perception of higher education relate to the Hispanic father?


For the past three years, as the researcher has taught several gifted and talented classes of elementary children, ages six –11 in a heavily populated Hispanic area, the repeated absence of the Hispanic father’s presence has become apparent. The researcher readily notes the number of mothers involved in their child’s education, however, little involvement by the father is evidenced. The Hispanic father, the researcher contends, appears to be the primary disciplinarian for the child, and when present will work to rectify problems, yet does not appear to be involved in the daily, weekly and monthly concerns and/or responsibilities the child faces in the educational realm.

The reasons the Hispanic father may not be involved, the researcher proposes, may be due to the language barrier, as the father’s lack of English skills may intimidate him. As most of the children’s fathers work out of state; traveling to secure employment, available time may also be a constraint. As most of the children come from a traditional family, this appears to indicate the family and the child to be important to the father. As the father often has not become a U.S. citizen, however, the researcher has noted additional reasons, not work related, may contribute to the lack of the father’s involvement. A number of times, according to children in the researcher’s classroom, the Hispanic fathers are arrested for not being a citizen. On more than one occasion, a student has advised the researcher that his/her father has been returned to Mexico. When this occurs, the child and mother will in turn, will have to withdraw from school to travel to wherever the father may be sent. Although it is evident the Hispanic child appreciates the Hispanic mom, the researcher perceives something vital to be missing. That missing something, the researcher contends, consists of the Hispanic father’s involvement in the child’s, particularly the male’s, education, During the proposed study which will examine the Hispanic male perception of higher education related to the Hispanic father, the researcher will also attempt to better understand how to encourage the Hispanic male to attain higher education.

Research Questions

Although parental support proves significant in some instances, it may not prove to be the single predictor of the college student’s adjustment. This contention lies as the heart of this study. When the parent provides emotional support Toews and Yazedjian (2007) contend, if the parent lacks college experience, he/she may not be able to provide particular support for his/her child. The parent’s college education serves as a type of social capital for the child, Toews and Yazedjian explained, when based on his/her personal educational experiences; the parent imparts knowledge, to the child.

The research questions designed for the proposed study will examine considerations such as the ones Toews and Yazedjian (2007) presented. The research question, M. Dereshiwsky (1999) purported in “Electronic Textbook – Let Us Count the Ways: Strategies for Doing Qualitative Research,” serves as “the heart and soul of any investigation.” The primary research question for the proposed study addresses the query: How does the Hispanic male perception of higher education relate to the Hispanic father?

The three following sub-questions will also serve as a guide to help ensure the researcher retains the focus relating to the Hispanic male perception of higher education:

  1. What role does the Hispanic male fill in the Hispanic family?
  2. What current concerns challenge the Hispanic male in the educational realm?
  3. What influences the desire for higher education and to secure a degree in first generation college students?

Significance of the Study

The research the proposed study will provide will enhance the current understanding regarding the Hispanic male perception of higher education related to the Hispanic father.

Completing this particular study will contribute to consideration of a frequently overlooked need, the involvement of the Hispanic father in the education of the Hispanic male. This study may also serve as a springboard to encourage educators to invest additional effort to include the Hispanic father in considerations outside of discipline. In turn, as the Hispanic father is encouraged to become more involved in the educational issues relating to his child, he may be influenced to consider pursuing some educational benefits for himself in particular segments in/of his life; i.e. learning and/or becoming more proficient in English. The snowball effect from this and/or similar studies could ultimately produce positive benefits to the child, father, and the family and could then spread to the work place, extended family and the community.

The proposed study will examine attitudes, and practices the Hispanic male perceives his father to display in regard to higher education. As it aims to particularly encourage teachers and the Hispanic parents to ensure the Hispanic father becomes more involved in his son’s education, the researcher will also relate a number of barriers regarding parental involvement. The information the proposed study will present could additional aid administrators and teachers to develop and implement initiatives to specifically promote and increase the father’s involvement. This could not only enhance the school and family partnership, it could ultimately increase the male Hispanic student performance and his academic success leading to an increase in the number of Hispanic males who pursue higher education.

Definitions of Terms

  • Father – is the male parent of offspring and typically refers to the role of the adult male with regards to his offspring. The role of the father may ascribe to legal or traditional practice, under marriage laws and most commonly by virtue of procreation. A father may or may not actively participate in the material, social and emotional upbringing of his children.
  • High Education – is used throughout the study interchangeably with postsecondary education.
  • Hispanic – is defined by the United States Bureau of Census ( 2004) as United States citizens who are either born in or originate from South America, Cuba, Central America, Mexico, Puerto Rico, or other Spanish countries. For the purpose of this study the term Hispanic will bear this meaning throughout.
  • Machismo – refers to the perceptions about what it means to be masculine and how those ideas shape and form the development of young men.
  • Parental – is parallel to maternal. The latter refers to the mother and the former typically refers to the male parents’ function within the family structure.
  • Postsecondary Education – refers to education and training obtained following completion of high school and generally includes matriculation in universities, colleges, community colleges, vocational colleges, liberal arts colleges, and institutes of technology.

Assumptions and Limitations

According to M. Dereshiwsky (1999) in “Online reading: electronic textbook: Limitations and delimitations,” limitations link to a concept known the internal validity of the researcher’s study design. Dereshiwsky notes Bill Trochim of Cornell to purport the following regarding internal validity; that unfortunately, research terminology has utilized the base term, “validity,” in two conspicuously different ways.

  1. When referring to instrumentation construction, validity means “did I [the researcher] measure what I [the researcher] thought I [the researcher] did?” If I [the researcher] say it’s a test of “depression,” is that what I’m[the researcher is] truly picking up – or could my [the researcher’s ]responses accidentally be contaminated or confounded by, say, “anxiety,” which I’m [the researcher is ]told by ed. psych. friends is actually a surprisingly ‘close correlate’ of “depression?”
  2. When referring to “Design Methodology,” and when prefaced as internal validity, validity has a closely related meaning. It refers to the credibility or believability of the findings and results. In other words, “did things happen for the reasons that you say they did? or could those findings and results, and therefore your conclusions, have become accidentally contaminated by some other variable(s) or factor(s) that you were unable to control, randomize, match subjects on, etc.?” (Trochim, as cited in Dereshiwsky, 1999, Limitations section)

The researcher perceives a number of potential limitations that may have to be dealt with during the forthcoming study. These include, but may not be limited to:

  1. Measuring the perception(s) of the Hispanic male dependent on level of openness, understanding of the discussion, and trust of the subject to the interviewer/researcher;
  2. Measuring the perception(s) of the Hispanic father dependent on level of openness, understanding of the discussion, and trust of the subject to the interviewer/researcher;
  3. Determining whether the perceptions of the Hispanic male in regard to the pursuit/attainment of higher education, do in fact relate as he perceives, to the Hispanic’s father’s perceptions/involvement.

As the researcher plans to conduct interviews with a number of Hispanic fathers, the researcher plans to ensure the questions will be presented in language the Hispanic father can understand, as well as, ensure the researcher in the role of the interviewer clearly understands the message(s) the Hispanic father relates. While the research will not show or evidence, it will note whether the understandings of the Hispanic father, as well as the researcher’s understanding, are 100% percent correct.

Nature of the Study

A qualitative study may serve to fill a noted void currently existing literature. A qualitative study may also, Creswell conveyed, “…establish a new line of thinking, or assess an issue with an understudied group or population” (Creswell as cited in Olive, 2008, summary section). Leedy and Ormrod (2005) conveyed that researchers may choose from five different qualitative research designs when completing qualitative studies. Options include:

  1. Case study,
  2. Ethnography,
  3. Phenomenological study,
  4. Grounded theory study,
  5. Content analysis,
  6. Grounded theory,
  7. Case study,
  8. Action research,
  9. mixed methods (Qualitative research, 2008, Approaches to Qualitative Research section).

For the proposed study, the researcher prefers to utilize the grounded theory study methodology.

Grounded Theory

Grounded theory consists of a research method projected to generate a theory “grounded in data systematically gathered and analyzed”. Its aim is not to test or verify an existing theory, but to instead, “develop theories/explain a process regarding social phenomena” (Qualitative research, 2008, Grounded theory section). Methods for the grounded theory will include the interview, focus group, and observation. Characteristics of grounded theory includes (a) Iterative approach which involves cycles of simultaneous data collection and analysis. The previous cycle informs the next data collection, etc.; (b) Theoretical sampling selected purposively as study progresses; (c) Constant comparison of which data-analysis entails emerging theoretical concepts continually refined with ‘fresh’ examples or facts; (d) Open coding which generates themes and axial coding (Qualitative research, 2008, Grounded theory section).

Pitfalls regarding grounded theory may include, however may not be limited to the following:

  1. Grounded theory analysis is not a design but a constant comparison and application of the predetermined themes. Emphasis must be on ‘emergent’ theory.
  2. Analysis Interruptus which means that there is thematic description without theory development (Qualitative research, 2008, Grounded theory section).

This research will focus on a group of male Hispanics with or without their father staying or living with them in their household. This study aims to interview at least 50 Hispanic males who have finished secondary education and would either pursue higher education or not. It will try to establish through Questionnaire system how many plan to pursue higher education and how many will not. It will interview respondents to find out the reasons why they are or are not pursuing higher education. It will also try to establish connection between the answers to the influence or non-influence of their fathers (or their lack of it).

In a diagram form, it is represented as such:

Grounded Theory

Organization of the Remainder of the Study

The study proposes to consist of the following chapters. Chapter I of this study proposal will present the proposed study’s focus – the background of the phenomenon to be examined – Hispanic male’s perception of higher education in regards to the Hispanic father.

In Chapter II, the researcher reviews the literature related to the forthcoming study. The literature review chapter presents a sampling of literature to support the research questions the proposed study will address. The researcher initially notes, however, that a dearth of information specifically relating to the proposed study’s focus exists.

In Chapter III, the methodology the grounded theory shall be utilized to investigate the Hispanic male perception of higher education. This chapter will also present the overall methods and techniques the researcher plans to implement to conduct this study, a qualitative grounded theory study. Considerations for the methodology chapter include methods the researcher plans to utilize.

During Chapter IV of the proposed study, the researcher will examine the information retrieved/reviewed/related for this study, and in turn will dissect results relevant to the Hispanic male perception of higher education relate to the Hispanic father. The researcher will note the study’s most relevant findings in this chapter. In addition, the researcher will adapt, create, and present a variety of tables and graphs to depict particular, noteworthy information/data from the collection of documents reviewed in the literature review chapter.

During Chapter V, in the discussion section, the researcher will recount the study scenario and will further expound on the findings from the retrieved information and analysis chapter. In the conclusion section, the researcher will confirm that this study’s research questions are appropriately addressed and relate the determination of the study’s hypothesis. Ultimately, based on this study’s findings, the researcher will proffer recommendation for future researchers to ponder for potential, future study projects. The researcher will also note any lessons, in hindsight that this study’s efforts recovered and will offer advice on how to utilize the findings of the study.


The researcher’s primary aim for the proposed study is to explore certain aspects of the

Hispanic male perception of higher education, particularly as it relates to the Hispanic father.

Just as Lerman, a 20th century parenting specialist and writer, notes that parents and children are distinct, the researcher contends that the proposed study will also differ from other studies. In some instances, however, the proposed study will replicate the design of numerous previous studies, as it adheres to the traditional format of research on grounded theory.


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