Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership



First Reader/Committee Chair

Acevedo-Gil, Nancy


Although Latina/os are the largest minority group in California and enrolling in higher education in record-breaking numbers (Zarate & Burciaga, 2010), the graduation rate of this group is very low (Kewal-Ramani, Gilbertson, Fox, & Provasnik, 2007). A phenomenological approach was used in this study to explore the lived experiences of Latina/o students at a for-profit college in the Inland Empire. Students from different major fields of study described how they explored and sought college information, how they experienced both community and for-profit colleges, and described their levels of sense of belonging in both community and for-profit colleges. Students shared their experiences reflective of the serpentine pathway of college-conocimiento (Acevedo-Gil, 2017) and the influence of a sense of belonging (Hurtado & Carter, 1997; Hurtado & Ponjuan, 2005; Maestas, Vaquera, & Zehr, 2007) on their persistence in higher education. Findings indicate that Latina/o students have limited college choices, weigh criteria to choose a for-profit college after departing from community colleges to “transfer across,” and feel that they belong in the for-profit institution for reasons that included either feeling cultural congruity with other students, or simply experienced college community support from faculty/ staff. Recommendations include: instructors be assigned as mentors who are personable and exhibit genuine caring; for-profit colleges should be as financially accessible as community colleges for all students; and the personalization available in for-profit colleges should be implemented into the community colleges.