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Author ORCID Identifier


Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program


Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Ryan Wells

Subject Categories

Higher Education


Latina/o students’ access to higher education has increased over time; however, the graduation rates for this group (52%) remain lower than those for white students (63%) (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). This low graduation rate presents a problem for the financial and social progress of the Latina/o population due to the key role that having a bachelor’s degree plays in the labor force. The purpose of this exploratory, qualitative study was to better understand the college experiences of Latina/o students in a predominantly white institution (PWI) in the state of Massachusetts. This study focused in key areas that are known to be important for retention and degree completion: campus climate, faculty interactions, family relationships, academic performance, campus resources, and financial needs. This study explored the role that colleges have in Latina/o students’ success in obtaining a four-year degree and the role that students have in their own success. In addition, this study explored differences within the Latina/o population by gender and transfer status. The results of this study provide college administrators, faculty, and staff (particularly those from institutions with a Latina/o population similar to the institution studied in this research) with knowledge about Latina/o students’ college experiences that informs practices to improve their educational success. Overall, the main factors that help Latina/o students progress toward their bachelor’s degrees are interactions with people who serve as retention agents; the variety of academic support, co-curricular activities and organizations available on campus; interactions with families; and students’ self-advocacy and motivation. The main factors hindering Latina/o students’ educational progress are financial needs, lack of representation of Latinas/os on campus, inadequate academic support, having difficulty learning about university resources, and unhelpful faculty, academic advisors, and peer mentors. It is my hope that the results of this study will be used by college administrators, staff, and faculty to better serve Latina/o students as they obtain their four-year degrees.