Barrier 3: Cultural Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes about Education

By Dr. Kimberly Van Horne, Ed.D.

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(Quotes by students: M=Male F= Female)

Families from various cultures have different views about college and the importance of a college education. There is no right or wrong way to view education, but sometimes students and their families have different views for many reasons, and this can cause academic challenges. It does not mean, necessarily, that people from any culture do not value education. It just means that sometimes people place a higher value on other aspects of life, like hard work and families, the strong identification and attachment to family. The majority of the students interviewed for this information were Latino first-generation college students who came from immigrant families with low-socioeconomic backgrounds and had parents with little to no formal education. The concern students shared was that family members, friends, and other people they were close to had never been to college and did not understand the college experience and the school responsibilities a student must address in order to succeed.

Several students shared their experiences dealing with some of their families’ cultural beliefs and values of education.

Cultural Attitudes

Students said that family members and friends often referred to college as a “waste of time” and that it is more important to start earning money right out of high school.



Overcoming Barrier 3: Coping with Differences in Cultural Beliefs, Values, and Attitudes about Education

(Quotes by students: M=Male F= Female)

There are ways students can help their loved ones understand their desire to earn a college degree. Cultural differences can be worked out through a variety of ways. Communicating individual views and working on compromises are positive approaches to solving differences. Sometimes students simply need to provide their families with information so that they can understand the college processes and learn all of the benefits of completing a college degree.

Students shared several strategies for coping with differences cultural beliefs, values, and attitudes toward education. Four patterns emerged: (a) think about the importance of college education, (b) stand up for educational values and beliefs, (c) find a role model or support person, and (d) self-motivate.

Valuing Education

There are many long-term financial benefits for completing a college degree. People who earn a Bachelor’s degree earn 75% more over their lifetime than those who only have a high school diploma. Students stated that understanding the value of education helped them to overcome some cultural barriers to college.

Students stated that important strategies to overcome cultural barriers were to stand up for personal educational values and beliefs and to verbalize values and beliefs about education to others who do not support their desire to attend college.


Role Models or Support People

Numerous students discussed the magnitude of finding a role model or valued support person as a vital strategy for college success.


The students said it was important to self-motivate and to use a lack of support as a motivational resource.


1. Competing Demands 2. Financial Issues 3. Cultural Beliefs, Values, & Attitudes about Education 4. Transitions to College
5. Failing or Repeating a Course 6. Starting College in Developmental Courses 7. Personal Attitudes about College  


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