Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Education (Ed.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Educational Leadership

Major Professor

Howard Johnston, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Ann Cranston-Gingras, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Elizabeth Shaunessy-Dedrick, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Philip Smith, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Georgina Rivera-Singletary, Ph.D.


Marginalized students, personal agency, support network, barriers, obstacles


The purpose of this qualitative study was to provide a detailed accounting of the experiences of Latinos students who persist in higher education. The supports and barriers they encountered, as well as their recommendations for educational stakeholders looking to effect persistence were examined. The grand tour question guiding this research was: “What do some Latino students and their institutions do to enable decisions to persist and how do they do it?” Sub-Questions providing depth for the research were: (a) how do the participants make meaning of their experiences to persist to graduate; (b) what are the participants’ perceptions of the barriers to persistence; (c) what are the participants’ perceptions of the supports for persistence; (d) what advice would the participants have for students seeking to persist? The theoretical frameworks for this research considered the impact of Critical Race Theory and 3 of the classic theories of persistence: Tinto (2013), Bean & Easton (2006) and Kuh (2006) on Latino persistence. The data in this study were documents, semi-structured interviews, and researcher notes. The rich, thick narratives of these underserved students detailing their journey in higher education revealed the most compelling barriers and supports in persistence. The study’s principal finding identified day-to-day external interactions as the apex for understanding persistence. External factors such as: (a) the criticality of personal agency and a strong support network; (b) the primacy of the draining personal sacrifices on decisions to persist and (c) the crucial role institutions can still have on persistence, especially in their advising and support services programs, as well as, innovative ways to fund higher education. The participants were critical of advising in their early years of study, but complementary of the mentor-like relationship they developed with individual faculty members as they navigated their journey in higher education; (d) the evolution of aspirations was a noteworthy finding, as many participants experienced significant personal growth and progression in their life goals from their studies. The findings also contribute to the body of literature on persistence in higher education and offer recommendations for stakeholders looking to effect persistence.