Date of Completion


Embargo Period



Carol Atkinson-Palombo, Xae Alicia Reyes

Field of Study



Master of Arts

Open Access

Campus Access


“Are you prepared for college?” is multifaceted question for high school students across the United States. Some have had college planned for them in embryo, while others do not consider a post-secondary education until their high school graduation day or later. Strong human, social, and cultural capital, including academic preparedness, navigation through the school selection and application processes, and understanding of the financial aid system are necessary skills in achieving admission to colleges and universities. Retention (Fry 2011; Swail et al.), transition between a two-year and a four-year school (Fry, 2005; Gonzalez, 2012), and graduation follow, and success in each of these areas vary across racial and ethnic subgroups. The challenges of each of these steps lead to a progressively more and more uneven playing ground in Bachelor’s degree attainment. Latino youth are most notably affected by each of these factors. A college degree is often described and necessary for success (Swail, Cabrera, & Lee, 2004) in the modern U.S. workforce and while Latinos do feel a college education is important, and desire to aspire to a four-year degree, many do not achieve it (O’Connor; Hammack, & Scott, 2010; Fry, 2005; Roderick, Coca, & Nagaoka, 2011). As the fastest growing and largest minority group in the U.S., with approximately 1 out of every 4 elementary school children being Latino (Fry, 2011), addressing educational disparities for the Latino population not only affects the Latino population, but the entire population of the United States. Shaped by their environment, children learn from their family, community and primary and secondary school peers and teachers. They are actively and passively gathering the knowledge and steps necessary for a successful relationship with an Institution of Higher Eduation (IHE), including the pre-enrollment steps. This paper focuses on the question of access to college enrollment. In particular, it examines if a student enrolls or does not enroll based on access in the form of cultural, social, and human capital. Specifically, how does physically living in a metropolitan area (MA) with a high concentration of capital in the form of college enrollment history affect future college enrollment in any IHE? Enrollment is not constrained to local IHEs. This thesis gives special attention to Latino students by examining if Latinos are more sensitive to the enrollment rates in metropolitan areas as a form of access to IHEs than non-Latinos.

Major Advisor

Thomas Cooke