In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Higher Education

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Types and Sources of Support
  • School and Institutional Climate
  • Economic Factors
  • Hispanic-Serving Institutions
  • Mental Health Issues among Latina/o Students
  • Undocumented Students
  • Latina/o Faculty
  • Best Practices Influencing Latino Student Success

Latino Studies Higher Education
Amaury Nora, Gloria Crisp, Nicole Alia Salis Reyes, Vincent D. Carales, Kenny Lopez, Kelly Alvarado
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 June 2018
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 June 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0051


Hispanics in the United States play an integral role in shaping American society. Currently, Latinos are the largest and youngest minority group with a birthrate that accounts for a quarter of all children born in the United States. As such, fostering academic success among Hispanics is increasingly essential to sustaining the social and economic well-being of the country. Regrettably, Hispanics continue to trail other racial/ethnic groups in terms of undergraduate degree attainment and other measures of postsecondary success. In response to this dilemma facing Hispanics, researchers in higher education have engaged in research that has focused specifically on identifying the characteristics, experiences, and behaviors associated with Hispanic success in college. However, even with the inclusion of work by Hispanic researchers, there are specific areas in the literature that have not been investigated fully, theoretically, and/or empirically. For example, new and theoretically sound notions of Hispanic student success have failed to advance the study of Hispanic undergraduate students, have been shown to be culturally insensitive, or have failed to reflect the experiences of diverse students, including Hispanics. In response, equity-minded higher education researchers have become increasingly engaged in scholarly efforts to understand the student characteristics and experiences that promote successful academic outcomes among Hispanic students. Nora and Crisp 2009 and, more recently, Crisp, et al. 2015 (both cited under General Overviews) offer lines of investigations that identify the research most needed to advance our understanding of how Hispanic students experience college, with a focus toward identifying factors that support student success. Further, research efforts have been dedicated toward understanding how individuals in and around students’ lives, including parents, faculty, and staff, as well as the institutional climate and context, national policies, and best practices, shape Hispanic students’ experiences and academic outcomes.

General Overviews

Several resources provide context to describing and understanding the experiences of Hispanic college students, including Stepler and Brown 2016, which supplies a national portrait of Hispanics, and Fry 2004, which analyzes data from a longitudinal, national study of Latina/o students. Olivas 1986 is a seminal book focusing on Hispanic college students, which provides background information for understanding the issues facing Hispanics from a variety of academic perspectives. Two edited books and an article provide a powerful picture of how societal inequities as well as economic and social obstacles and barriers serve to impede college access and success for Hispanic students. These include Pérez and Ceja 2015; Freeman and Martinez 2015; and Solórzano, et al. 2005. Two literature reviews, Crisp, et al. 2015 and Storlie, et al. 2013, offer syntheses of quantitative and qualitative studies. Findings provide a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of the experiences and contextual factors that may help or hinder Latina/o students’ college success.

  • Crisp, Gloria, Amanda Taggart, and Amaury Nora. “Undergraduate Latina/o Students: A Systematic Review of Research Identifying Factors Contributing to Academic Success Outcomes.” Review of Educational Research 85.2 (2015): 249–274.

    DOI: 10.3102/0034654314551064

    Comprehensive review and summary of empirical evidence focused on academic factors that are related to undergraduate Latina/o student success. Identifies characteristics, psychosocial factors, college experiences, and institutional characteristics related to one or more outcomes and offers recommendations for future research.

  • Freeman, Melissa L., and Magdalena Martinez, eds. College Completion for Latino/a Students: Institutional and System Approaches. New Directions for Higher Education 172. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2015.

    Edited volume includes case studies, literature reviews, and empirical work to explore college and university efforts to serve the growing Latina/o student population. Chapters highlight successful initiatives and best practices for serving various groups, including undocumented students and graduate students. The volume also considers Latina/o experiences at different institutional types.

  • Fry, Richard. Latino Youth Finishing College: The Role of Selective Pathways. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2004.

    Commissioned analysis of a nationally representative sample of students from the National Educational Longitudinal Survey (NELS). Report identifies barriers to bachelor degree attainment, such as attendance at less selective institutions, among academically prepared Latino students.

  • Nora, Amaury, and Gloria Crisp. “Hispanics and Higher Education: An Overview of Research, Theory, and Practice.” In Higher Education: Handbook of Theory and Research. Vol. 24. Edited by John C. Smart, 317–353. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer, 2009.

    DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4020-9628-0_8

    Presents an overview of the status of academic achievement among Hispanic students, followed by a synthesis of key studies conducted with respect to college access and persistence for Hispanic students. Article concludes with an examination of the impact of federal and state policies affecting Latina/o students.

  • Olivas, Michael A., ed. Latino College Students. Bilingual Education Series. New York: Teachers College Press, 1986.

    First book specifically focused on Hispanic college students. Written by educators, economists, psychologists, and legal scholars, it provides a variety of academic perspectives on Hispanic students.

  • Pérez, Patricia A., and Miguel Ceja, eds. Higher Education Access and Choice for Latino Students: Critical Findings and Theoretical Perspectives. New York: Routledge, 2015.

    Edited volume that explores how educational experiences influence Latina/o students’ college aspirations and access. Chapters investigate the collective role of students’ home, K–12 schooling experiences, and the political context in shaping college planning and decision making. The volume brings attention to promising college access programs that may be effective in promoting college enrollment and retention.

  • Rendón, Laura I., Amaury Nora, and Vijay Kanagala. “Ventajas/Assets y Conocimientos/Knowledge: Leveraging Latin@ Assets to Foster Student Success.” In Hispanic-Serving Institutions in American Higher Education: Their Origin, and Present and Future Challenges. Edited by Jesse Perez Mendez, Fred A. Bonner II, Josephine Méndez-Negrete, and Robert T. Palmer, 92–118. Sterling, VA: Stylus, 2014.

    The authors provide a counternarrative to the deficit paradigm used in addressing Latino college students. The asset-based narrative focuses on the strengths (assets) and knowledge bases that Latino students bring with them as they enter college. Several asset-based frameworks found in the literature are proposed in reconceptualizing what skills and abilities Latino students possess in dealing with the world of higher education.

  • Solórzano, Daniel G., Octavio Villalpando, and Leticia Oseguera. “Educational Inequities and Latina/o Undergraduate Students in the United States: A Critical Race Analysis of Their Educational Progress.” Journal of Hispanic Higher Education 4.3 (2005): 272–294.

    DOI: 10.1177/1538192705276550

    An analysis of the inequities faced by Latina/o students throughout the educational pipeline, with special attention paid to college choice, transfer, and baccalaureate degree attainment. Using a critical race theory (CRT) framework, the authors argue that equity can be reached only through race-conscious efforts. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

  • Stepler, Renee, and Anna Brown. Statistical Portrait of Hispanics in the United States. Washington, DC: Pew Hispanic Center, 2016.

    Comprehensive report of Hispanics in the United States. Report provides data and summary tables for a variety of descriptive characteristics, including educational enrollment and attainment.

  • Storlie, Cassandra A., Luis S. Moreno, and Tarrell Awe Agahe Portman. “Voices of Hispanic College Students: A Content Analysis of Qualitative Research within the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences.” Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences 36.1 (2013): 64–78.

    DOI: 10.1177/0739986313510283

    Content analysis of qualitative research studies focused on the experiences of Hispanic college students. Themes were identified from the voices of Hispanic college students on the basis of their lived experiences. The themes include self-efficacy, cultural awakening, succeeding, positive feelings, additional support, and hope.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.