posted on November 20, 2012 15:55
Book by Catherine L. Horn, Stella M. Flores, Gary Orfield
Review by Peggy Itschner
School of Visual Arts
University of North Texas
I was standing in the doorway as another advisor gave our summer orientation presentation to a new group of incoming freshmen. Suddenly, one of the students stood up and walked towards the door. She whispered a request to speak with me outside for a moment. We sat on a bench outside the classroom and the girl began to cry. She had the stacks of confusing information that she had been given during the last two days of orientation and began to tell me her story. Maria was a first generation college student. Her parents were immigrants from Mexico and they had given everything possible so that Maria might have the opportunity to be the first in the family to attend college. As I listened to her story, empathy overwhelmed me and I told her that we could review the information slowly from the beginning and she could interrupt me to ask questions along the way. She exhaled a long sigh of relief and an hour later, left with my business card and renewed confidence in the possibility of achieving the impossible.
Maria is part of growing demographic of Latinos entering higher education. This book approaches the topic of effectively improving the accessibility and experience of Latinos seeking college degrees. As the demographic continues to increase rapidly, nearly anyone working in higher education or a related field would benefit from this resource. Those in California, Texas, Washington and other states that are experiencing the steepest inclines in Latino population growth might specifically make this part of their reading repertoire.
Latino Educational Opportunity explores reasons why Latinos do (and do not) attend college, factors in college choice, and obstacles in persistence. One chapter focuses exclusively on initiatives in California and Washington. Special focus is also given to the role of community colleges, as a significant part of the Latino student’s educational pipeline. Senior level university administrators may find the policymaking chapters insightful in seeking strategies for their campuses, while academic advisors, professors and student services personnel might find helpful information for understanding the framework from which their Latino students view the college environment.
The majority of the research in this volume is quantitative, making the information somewhat dry. With a topic such as this, my normal preference for qualitative research was heightened. I wanted to read personal stories of struggle and victory from Latino students, but they could not be found in this resource. However, the research did enlighten me to new sociological concepts concerning college choice which would apply to any group, namely chain enrollment and college enclaves.
Of particular interest to those interested in further study or research, the last chapter provides direction for the future. The editors make abundantly clear that the dearth of research in this area only exacerbates the many obstacles Latinos face in education. As someone who was raised in Texas and currently advises students at a large public research university in Texas, I have been interested in this topic for some time and just might take one of the editor’s suggested queries and run with it. Overall, I would suggest this book for anyone who works with a significant Latino population or has been interested in this topic. When Maria comes to my office, I want to be able to effectively assist her in navigating her (hopefully, not so confusing anymore) college experience.
Latino Educational Opportunity (New Directions for Community Colleges, No. 133) (2006) Book by Catherine L. Horn, Stella M. Flores, Gary Orfield (Eds.). Review by Peggy Itschner. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass 96 pp., $29.00, (paperback), ISBN # 0-7879-8624-0