Asian-American and Pacific Islander Students Are Not Monolithically Successful, Report Says

June 27, 2011

Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders are, as a whole, not as well educated and financially successful as prevailing stereotypes often suggest, according to the preliminary findings of a report released on Monday.

The report, which will be published in final form later this summer by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education, examines how the shifting demographics of those populations have affected the colleges that serve them. The findings challenge the "model minority myth," in which all Asian-American and Pacific Islander ethnic groups are believed to have disproportionately high enrollments at highly selective four-year institutions, and in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

In fact, nearly half of all Asian-American and Pacific Islander students, known as AAPI students, attend community colleges, and many of their ethnic groups have some of the lowest high-school-graduation and college-degree-attainment rates in the United States.

"The changing face of students in our education system is a growing theme that must be addressed both from a policy and institutional perspective," said Robert Teranishi, the report's lead author and an associate professor of higher education at New York University. "We need to think about ways to better serve the unique needs and challenges of AAPI students who are not gaining access to higher education or who are dealing with a high rate of attrition during college."

Mr. Teranishi made those remarks during a telephone call with reporters on Monday, the first day of an education summit led by the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund. Attendees plan to discuss the role that the population plays in meeting the nation's college-completion agenda. President Obama has set a goal to restore the nation's standing as the country with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

The report says that, from 2000 to 2010, the AAPI population increased at a faster rate than that of any other major racial group in the United States. Population projections show that the trend will continue over the next two decades, and the groups' college enrollment is projected to increase by 30 percent from 2010 to 2019.

In fact, the population is expected to reach nearly 40 million people by 2050. However, there is a wide variation in college-going and degree attainment among the Asian and Pacific Islander population, the report says.

Among Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders, 55 to 66 percent of adults have not attended any form of postsecondary education. While more than four in five East Asians (Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) and South Asians (Asian Indian and Pakistani) who enter college earn at least a bachelor's degree, larger proportions of Southeast Asians (43 percent) and Pacific Islanders (51 percent) report having attended college but not earning a degree.

Also on Monday, it was announced that a new organization had formed to represent institutions serving Asian-American, Native American, and Pacific Islander students. The Asian Pacific Islander American Association of Colleges and Universities intends to promote the development of member colleges and universities, and help improve the quality of postsecondary-educational opportunities for students.