As of 2018, 61% of all jobs in Arizona require additional training/education beyond the high school diploma. With only 35% of Arizona’s population holding a post-secondary degree, there is high demand and need for more Arizonans to complete degrees or certificates in the coming years. As the largest minority population in the state and one-third of the college-aged population, Latinx students are not successfully attaining these degrees. While Latinx degree attainment has increased, this increase was due primarily to higher rates of high school and degree completion of Latinas. Of those Latino males that continue to post-secondary education, the majority (71%) will enroll at the community college level. However, the road to academic success at community college is dim. Despite their high enrollment rates at community college, 13% will leave after their first year, 35.2% after their second, and 56.7% after six years (Urias & Wood, 2015).
Research on Latino males in higher education has been primarily focused on access, persistence, and retention at the university level. Further, research has been centered on identity, critical race theory, language behaviors, and engagement of Latino males in higher education. Little to no research has been done to identify the factors, characteristics, or the internal will that propels a Latino male community college student to complete their degree. This research is intended to contribute to this void in research, utilizing a human behavioral theoretical approach to address the phenomena of Latino male attrition.
This exploratory mixed method research approach incorporated both qualitative and quantitative instruments to test the validity of the Theory of Planned Behavior as a plausible model to assess intention of Latino males to graduate from community college. The research examined whether intention to graduate could be assessed on the behavioral beliefs associated with a Latino male’s attitude, perceived norms, and their perceived behavioral controls towards completing a degree. Further, the research sought to determine that if the theory could accurately assess intention, could the model assess differences in intention for first-year versus second-year students, and currently enrolled students versus those who have dropped out. The premise was that if the theory is an acceptable model to predict intention, the study could also model behavioral interventions to support Latino male student persistence and completion.
The results indicate that the Theory of Planned Behavior is an acceptable model to assess and predict behavioral beliefs that drive Latino male intention to graduate from community college. Latino male students’ attitudes toward degree attainment is the most significant factor in predicting their intention to graduate. Additionally, behavioral beliefs of enrolled students are significantly different than their peers who dropped out. However, there is no significant difference in the behavioral beliefs of students in their first-year of enrollment versus those in their second-year of enrollment.
Using the theory’s behavioral intervention implementation strategy, the research provided implications for practice that support Latino male student recruitment, retention, and completion measures for community colleges. Additionally, the research provides implications for future research that supports more studies on Latino male community college degree attainment, and for preparing more Latino men for the workforce needs of Arizona.