Ideas for Latinx students supporting in the classroom and at the administrative levels, and better understanding education, culture, and family of Latinx students in Idaho.

Written by Erika Allen


  • Latino: a native or inhabitant of Latin America or a person of Latin American origin living in the U.S.
  • Hispanic: of or relating to people, speech or culture of Spain, or being a person of Latin American descent.  Literally means belonging to Spain.
  • Latinx: a gender neutral term to refer to people with heritage that ties to Latin America.
  • Chicanx: a gender neutral term to refer to people who identify as Mexican-American.

Post-Secondary Students in Idaho

Idaho’s Hispanic postsecondary students differ from non-Hispanics in several ways.

In 2014, Hispanic students  were:

  • More likely to attend one of the state’s public institutions
  • Less likely to attend a four-year institution
  • Less likely to be enrolled in graduate school
Idaho postsecondary students by ethnicity

Hispanic students were less likely to complete their degree within 150% of normal time:

  • 33% compared to 40% among non-Hispanics.
  • Completion rates were higher among Hispanics than non-Hispanics at two public institutions: College of Western Idaho and Eastern Idaho Technical College.
  • Among Hispanics, the rate ranged from 0% at North Idaho College to 91% at Eastern Idaho Technical College.
Postsecondary students completing degree or certificate

Socio-Cultural Factors

Socio-cultural factors are “multiple forces that can shape the personal and environmental experiences of Hispanic college students and include various aspects of identity development” (Hernandez & Lopez, 2004, p. 49). Socio-cultural factors include:

  • immigrant status
  • ethnic identity
  • gender roles
  • community orientation
  • role of religion

Understanding Latinx Family Culture

  • Value is placed upon people and participating in activities within the family.
  • La Familia is patriarchical.
  • In a Pew Hispanic Center study, nearly 74% of respondents explained their studies were hindered by a need to work in order to provide economic support for their families.
  • Latinx families hold more influence on their children’s educational decisions than individuals/students from other ethnic groups.

Respeto is the value parents emphasize in Latinx culture that communicates respect for one another, elders and other adults. It plays a strong role in student regard for familial advice (DeGarmo & Martinez, 2006; Woolley, 2009).

  • Latino parents believe it is their responsibility to educate their children for life, not just for school.
  • Parents want children to attend college, but aren’t familiar with the process.
  • Parents may not know how to advocate for their children’s educational future.
  • There is a collective sense of responsibility among families for one another’s children. Schools can capitalize on this and develop relationships with parents and students.
  • Wintre and Jaffe (2002) reported the importance of the family in the retention of Hispanic college students.The family was described as a source of support and encouragement; however, the family also placed pressure on their students by letting them know that dropping out was not an option.
  • Latinx parents consider engagement in the education of their children as participating in home based activities outside of the school that assist students, and not necessarily on the traditional model of engagement such as fundraising, school activities, and PTA membership. Often, this is overlooked by school personnel because this involvement does not fall within traditional definitions of engagement and in many instances takes place within the community and at home, away from school (Auerbach, 2007; LeFevre & Shaw, 2012).
  • Latinx parents will inquire of trusted community members instead of school officials. Those schools that work with immigrant Latinx population who are still learning how to navigate the U.S. educational system will benefit from assimilating information about those cultures and engaging trusted community leaders to help them develop  partnerships of trust that will help overcome these types of barriers.
  • Wintre and Jaffe (2002) reported the importance of the family in the retention of Hispanic college students. The family was described as a source of support and encouragement; however, the family also placed pressure on their  students by letting them know that dropping out was not an option.

Barriers to Post-Secondary Achievement

The ongoing gap in Latino high school graduation rates and academic performance is linked with (Hawkins, Jaccard, & Needle, 2013; Marshall, 2006):

  • Lack of training for school personnel working with this specific population
  • Segregation of school districts by low socioeconomic status (SES)
  • Lack of bilingual programs in certain areas of the United States
  • Financial stressors
  • Lack of parental involvement as traditionally defined by educators, peer groups, and family poverty
  • Lack of a Hispanic community on campus (Hernandez’s, 2000). A Hispanic community on a  predominantly White campus had a positive impact on retention.
  • When a school lacks resources and personnel that may provide insight to the issues and cultural clues that may assist the school in engaging traditionally marginalized groups, it debilitates the efforts put forth by that school on behalf of its students.
  • Programs and policies that make up a school convey organizational methods, attitudes, and messages to the student body and the extended community in which the school operates. Schools that cannot convey appropriate messages and affect policies that are relevant to their populations will negatively impact the school community and serve as barriers to student success.

Supporting Latinx Students

  • Help students feel like they belong, find their niche, and handle imposter syndrome:
    • Nora (2001) reported that academic self-concept is significantly related to GPA. Mexican American  students with the same academic background are more likely to achieve higher grades if they had greater confidence in their academic abilities.
    • Hernandez (2000) reported that successful Hispanic students, who demonstrated a positive mental outlook, attributed this as the single most important factor that influenced their retention in college.
  • Relationships with minority faculty are the most significant dimension of social integration in affecting grade point average (Pancer, Hunsberger, Pratt, and Alisat (2000)). All faculty can participate in faculty search committees and identifying individuals who are knowledgeable about Latinx students.
  • Hispanic students who perceive a student-centered faculty and have opportunities for faculty interaction are more likely to adjust to college. (Hernandez and Lopez (2004)
  • Latinx students might need to be encouraged/nominated by faculty/staff for opportunities (mentorship, work scholars, internships, research, etc.).
  • Faculty can help students by asking about familial/community support and issues related to isolation.
  • Reflect on the actions associated with institutional agent roles and intentionally enact them.
  • Identify Latinx students and become familiar with their life histories, and provide them with the resources  and experiences to develop their identities as students and learners.
  • Become familiar with federally funded programs to support Latinx student success and collaborate with
  • other faculty members to write grant applications.

Promoting Latinx student success and ensuring equity in outcomes requires ongoing reflection and action by institutional leadership and individual practitioners.

  • Engage faculty in an examination of departmental culture and how it supports Latinx student success.
  • Give priority in faculty hiring to individuals whose backgrounds, experiences, values, and aspirations make them identifiable as institutional agents.
  • Reward (materially or symbolically) and highlight faculty who act as institutional agents in support of Latino/a students and other students from historically underserved groups outside of the classroom.
  • Provide release time or other kinds of support to write grant applications for special programs; provide programmatic funds to encourage faculty members to offer academic support through social gatherings to Latino/a students.
  • Use institutional agent characteristics as criteria for faculty performance assessment and evaluation.
  • Use inclusivity tools to help teams and individuals reflect on how their own actions and behaviors, as well as institutional practices and resources, affect Latino/a student success.

Questions for Reflection

List the practices, policies, structures that are essential to each campus operation listed below. For each, consider the following question: In what ways does can this practice benefit Latinx? In what ways is this practice Latinx centered?

  • Hiring and evaluation
  • Curriculum
  • Program Review
  • Institutional effectiveness data
  • Graduation Initiatives
  • Student Equity Monies

Aspirational Programming

Further Reading


  • Auerbach, S., & Collier, S. (2012). Bringing high stakes from the classroom to the parent center: Lessons from an intervention program for immigrant families. Teachers College Record,  114(3), 1–40.
  • DeGarmo, D. S., & Martinez, C. R., Jr. (2006). A culturally informed model of academic well-being for Latino youth: The importance of discriminatory experiences and social support.  Family Relations, 55, 267-278.
  • Hawkins, R. L., Jaccard, J., & Needle, E. (2013). Nonacademic factors associated with dropping out of high school: Adolescent problem behaviors. Journal of the Society for Social Work  and Research, 4(2), 58-75.
  • Hernandez, J. C. (2000). Understanding the retention of Latino college students. Journal of Student Development, 41, 575-588. Hernandez, J. C., & Lopez, M. A. (2004). Leaking pipeline: Issues impacting Latino/a college student retention. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice, 6(1), 37-60.
  • Hernandez, J. C., & Lopez, M. A. (2004). Leaking pipeline: Issues impacting Latino/a college student retention. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory, & Practice, 6(1),  37-60.
  • LeFevre, A. L., & Shaw, T. V. (2012). Latino parent involvement and school success: Longitudinal effects of formal and informal support. Education and Urban Society, 44(6), 707–723.  doi:10.1177/0013124511406719
  • Nora, A. (2001). The depiction of significant others in Tinto’s “Rites of Passage:” A reconceptualization of the influence of family and community in the persistence process. Journal of College Student Retention: Research, Theory & Practice, 3(1), 41-56. Hispanic Success 28.
  • Nora, A. (2004). The role of habitus and cultural capital in choosing a college, transitioning from high school to higher education, and persisting in college among minority and  nonminority students. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 3(2), 180-208.
  • Pancer, S. M., Pratt, M., Hunsberger, B., & Alisat, S. (2005). Bridging troubled waters: Helping students to make the transition from high school to university. Guidance and Counseling,  19, 184-190
  • Wintre, M., & Jaffe, M. (2002). First-year students’ adjustment to university life as a function of relationships with parents. Journal of Adolescent Research, 15(1), 9-37.
  • Woolley, M. (2009). Supporting school completion among Latino youth: The role of adult relationships. The Prevention Researcher, 16(3), 9-12. Retrieved from

Contact Information

Center for Teaching and Learning

Meriwether Lewis Hall 320

500 8th Avenue

Lewiston, Idaho 83501