The Hispanic population in the United States is increasing at a substantial rate. Hispanics are projected to account for approximately 20% of the U.S. population by 2020 (Sorensen, Brewer, Carroll, and Bryton, 1995). Nearly 40% of this population will be under the age of 19, compared with 29% for the total U.S. population. “Hispanic youth represents the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, and Hispanics now account for more than a quarter of all new entrants into the labor force” (Sorensen, Brewer, Carroll, and Bryton, 1995, p. 1).
This influx of young Hispanic population brings with it many new challenges in education and in the work force. Education is often seen as a catalyst for success in the work place; however, Hispanics’ educational success has not kept pace with their increasing population, and they are especially struggling to complete higher education. “Young Hispanic undergraduates are half as likely as their white peers on campus to finish a bachelor’s degree, a disparity at least as large as the disparity in finishing high school” (Fry, 2005, p. i). So prevalent is this problem that the Clinton and Bush Administrations both declared the group’s improvement of college graduation rates a national priority (Santiago & Brown, 2004). The increasing number of Hispanics only exacerbates their educational problems/difficulties, not to mention the number increasingly impacts the workforce.
Cultural and social differences are hypothesized as one reason for the high attrition rate of Hispanic students in secondary and post-secondary education. Hispanics often have strong family ties and work ethic. Their perception of family roles and obligations often propels them into the work force at ages younger than their white counterparts. Ultimately, this role in the work force often prevents them from pursuing education. Many others struggle with high school and have limited adult role models to encourage their educational efforts; this struggle is only worsened in higher education (Fry, 2004).
In summation, students with a lack of education often face a lack of opportunity. A lack of education among a particular racial group can have even greater implications, as it can lead to pre-conceived expectations and stereotyping that can inhibit success. Martinez, DeGarmo, & Eddy (2004) state: School success is among the most important correlates of overall physical, mental, and social well-being. In fact, academic functioning is known to be highly related to a host of other important outcomes for youths including substance use, delinquency, and associations with deviant peers…Students who drop out from school experience lower income, greater unemployment, are significantly overrepresented in the adult corrections population, and more likely to require social services during their lifetimes compared to high school graduates. (pp. 128-129)
The purpose of this study is to determine whether social and family factors influence Hispanic students’ successful completion of a higher education business program and entry into the workforce. The study examined a longitudinal data set provided by a nationally recognized research institute. Results demonstrated that several social factors are significant in predicting which students persisted in the study of business. Freshmen that readily embraced socializing in the college setting were more likely to persist, and the importance they placed on developing relationships throughout their college career was significant to their persistence of education in this area. As such, the study implies that in order to assist Hispanics to persist in business higher education, educators and institutions should recognize the importance that social relationships have to this set of students. More emphasis should be given to help them embrace the college experience and to help them cultivate and maintain relationships among their peers.