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Problems and possibilities: The complexities of accessing higher education for Puerto Rican women in the United States

Barbara Tramonte, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Female-headed families of Hispanic origin have the highest poverty rate of all ethnic groups in the United States. Within this group of Hispanics, Puerto Rican families suffer most from high rates of poverty with 52.1% of Puerto Rican youth younger than 18 living below the poverty line (United States Census Bureau, 2001). These figures are directly related to low educational levels and high dropout rates among Puerto Rican females (Canedy, 2001; United States Department of Commerce, 1999). ^ This study explores the experiences of 16 Puerto Rican women accessing higher education in an alternative program in the United States. In order to explore the experiences of my participants, I use in-depth interviewing from a phenomenological perspective (Seidman, 1998). ^ The study's findings show a lack of school support and curricular guidance for Puerto Rican women in secondary school in the United States, and a tendency toward internalized failure among participants. Inadequate assessment of bilingual speakers combined with negative perceptions of bilingual Spanish/English speakers in United States schools also account for deficient academic outcomes for Puerto Rican female students. ^ Results of this study also show a correlation between family disjunction and negative school outcomes. High pregnancy rates among Puerto Rican teenagers were also contributors to school drop out and push out behaviors. ^ Most women in this study who went on to a respectful, high-level, critical thinking alternative higher education course in the humanities (New Roads to College) showed remarkable growth personally and academically. Findings show an increase in literacy and school motivation for their extended family members as well. ^ The study points to many recommendations for schools and policy makers who are educating Puerto Rican women in United States schools. ^

Subject Area

Bilingual education|Women's studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Tramonte, Barbara, "Problems and possibilities: The complexities of accessing higher education for Puerto Rican women in the United States" (2004). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3152754.