Despite being one of the fastest-growing minorities in the United States, the Asian American and Pacific Islander population has not been adequately researched or its needs considered in the the higher education agenda, a new report released today says.
The Relevance of Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders in the College Completion Agenda, a publication by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, aims to draw attention to this minority group that is expected to reach 40 million by 2050.
AAPIs are diverse and include 16 subgroups: Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, Asian Indian, Pakistani, Filipino, Indonesian. Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Hmong, Guamanian, Native Hawaiian, Tongon, and Samoan.
"It's tough to get a sense of what is happening within this population because there are so many differences within groups," says Robert Teranishi, principal investigator at CARE, and associate professor of higher education at New York University. "There is not a big push in the education field to rectify this issue and raise awareness with this population."
Postsecondary educational achievement of AAPI students varies widely, the report shows.
Four out of five East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and South Asians (Asian Indian and Pakistani) who enrolled in college earned at least a bachelor's degree.
Other subgroups haven't been as successful with completion.
Among Southeast Asians, about 34 percent of Vietnamese, 43 percent of Cambodians, 47 percent of Laotians, and 48 percent of Hmong adults (25 years or older) reported having attended college, but not earning a degree. Among Pacific Islanders, 47 percent of Guamanians, 50 percent of Native Hawaiians, 54 percent of Tongans, and 58 percent of Samoans entered college, but left without earning a degree.
Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders had a higher proportion of college students with an associate's degree as their highest level of education, while East Asians and South Asians were more likely to have a bachelor's degree or advanced degree, the report noted.
AAPIs made up less than 5 percent of the national population in 2007, but represent 7 percent of community college students. From 1990 to 2000, AAPI enrollment at community colleges increased by 73 percent compared with 42 percent at four-year public institutions, the report found. Students from the group attending community colleges were more likely to attend part-time and graduate later than their counterparts at four-year institutions.
The general assumption is that if Asians are doing well, there is not a need for research. But disparities exist that are not being addressed, says Teranishi, and institutions can do more to be responsive to these students. Similar to Latino students, the AAPI population face language barriers and immigration issues. The report calls for greater access to higher education and more effective services to address the unique needs of AAPI students.
"These populations have a great deal of untapped potential," says Teranishi.