Alumna's research investigates factors influencing Hispanic student transfer rates in Texas

Diversity in community college faculty is the strongest influence determining whether Hispanic students transfer to four-year universities, according to a recent study from the University of North Texas.

Emily Klement, who recently earned her doctoral degree from UNT's College of Education, has worked with Hispanic students in public school and higher education settings for years. She began noticing various issues causing barriers to degree completion rates and student success, and wanted to find out why.

Texas is second only to California in Hispanic student enrollment, and family culture and locale play key roles in Hispanic students' selection of community colleges, along with the ability to attend classes part-time, according to Klements's research.

"A lot of barriers affecting Hispanic students transferring to four-year universities have been identified, but I wanted to identify the factor with the most influence on a student's success," Klement said.

Klement analyzed data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board of 50 Texas community colleges to determine possible barriers. Possible barriers included the Hispanic population of each community college location, Hispanic community college student readiness as indicated by Texas Success Indicator scores, and the percent of Hispanic faculty at each community college.

"The greatest factor determining whether Hispanic students will transfer to four-year universities was the presence of Hispanic faculty on community college campuses," Klement said. "The greater number of Hispanic faculty meant more mentorship, guidance, pathway finding and encouragement, and all of these things help student success and completion rates."

Several community college campuses in Texas have 25 percent or more Hispanic enrollment, and that number is growing, Klement said.

"Overall for Hispanic students, and all students, mentorship, encouragement and guidance are huge, and we need to make sure support systems are in place to ensure a strong and qualified future workforce," Klement said.

-Leslie Wimmer, News Promotions