The Paradoxical Experiences of Young Hispanic College Students: Academic Success in the Face of Age-Related Stigma

Marilyn Garcia, University of Texas at El Paso


There has been growth in programs such as the Early College High School Initiative in order to address the inequalities that racial/ethnic minorities, such as Hispanics, face when it comes to pursuing a higher education. As a result, there has been an increase of nontraditionally aged students (i.e., young students under 18) in higher education. Despite likely increases in young students attending universities, little is known about the young students’ academic performance and the challenges they face while attending college; this thesis addresses that limitation through two studies using institutional and interview data from one university. The first study used generalized estimating equations to compare the academic performance of young Hispanic students to traditionally aged Hispanic students as well as qualitative interviews with a subset of 15 young students to explain the quantitative results. The second study concentrated on analyzing the qualitative data to examine the age-related stigma that these Hispanic students faced. Results from the first study indicate that young students outperformed traditionally aged students in terms of GPA over three semesters in college. The interviews showed that high quality high school preparation in programs designed for students on paths to become young college students; an openness to seek help from professors; and a lack of partying were some possible explanations behind the academic success of young Hispanic students. Results from the second study showed that there are various ways in which young Hispanic students experience age-related stigma, such as peers thinking the young students are not competent enough as well as the disparaging comments young students have heard. Young students in this study actively sought to manage their age-related stigma through impression management and through changing their original path in order to achieve their long-term goals. Despite their positive academic outcomes, young Hispanic students still face challenges such as age-related stigma. While it seems that these students are coping well, they may feel too young which influences them to postpone their post-graduation plans. This suggests for future research to examine age in higher education and follow these young students to see how age-related stigma evolves as they pursue their long-term goals.

Subject Area

Sociology|Hispanic American studies|Higher education

Recommended Citation

Garcia, Marilyn, "The Paradoxical Experiences of Young Hispanic College Students: Academic Success in the Face of Age-Related Stigma" (2018). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10824900.