Perceptions of Latino Students in the Academic Achievers Program Regarding Non-cognitive Factors for College Enrollment and Graduation
Patenotte, Lisa Rodriguez
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Purpose The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions of current and former Latino participants in the Academic Achievers Program (AAP) regarding Non-Cognitive and Other Potential Factors for college enrollment and graduation. The participants for this study were purposefully selected from the populations of students that are currently enrolled in AAP and former students who completed the AAP. Methodology In this descriptive study, the researcher used the qualitative research methodology of hermeneutical phenomenology in order to understand the participants’ perceptions and feelings about Non-Cognitive factors affecting their current and former participation in AAP. An initial survey was sent to 16 current and 8 former AAP participants (n = 24) to prepare them for the focus group interviews conducted at the Center for Mexican American Studies. Findings Analyses of the data yielded three categories and several themes. The following three categories were identified for Non-Cognitive factors: (a) Academic Services; (b) Social Integration/Welcoming Environment; and (c) Financial Aid Services. The themes for each category were determined through analysis of frequencies and percentages when responses yielded a 70%-100% positive response from both groups on the same question. The themes that emerged under the Academic Services category included: (a) academic advising, (b) peer tutoring or other tutoring services, (c) opportunities to connect with academic groups on campus, (d) opportunities for students to connect with family outside of class, and (e) full-time enrollment in college. Under the Social Integration/Welcoming Environment category, participants endorsed the theme of being provided with opportunities for social integration in a welcoming environment. Themes endorsed by participants under the Financial Aid Services category included: (a) connections on campus for jobs to meet financial needs and (b) the use of financial aid advisory services. The following four categories of Other Potential Factors were identified: (a) Encouraged Enrollment; (b) Increased Participation in AAP; (c) Academic Challenges/Expectations; and (d) Cognitive and Personal Traits for Faculty. The theme for Encouraged Enrollment category included motivation /encouragement. The theme endorsed for Increased Participation in AAP category was sharing information. Under the Academic Challenges/Expectations category participants indicated the following themes: (a) provision of assignments that motivated classroom discussions, (b) provision of assignments that changed their point of view about a concept, and (c) provision of assignments that encouraged synthesis and organization of ideas in novel ways. Finally, concerning the themes for Cognitive and Personal Traits for Faculty category, participants stated that the professors were knowledgeable, exhibited positive attitudes, were fair, and respectful. Conclusions Based on responses from participants in this study, the resources and planning that take place in the AAP to address individual needs of participants influenced their positive reactions to questions regarding their perceptions of Non-Cognitive and Other Potential Factors. The researcher hopes that the findings of this study will serve as a tool to support AAP mentors and directors in their decision-making efforts to provide effective non-cognitive educational services to all under-served student populations.