Asian Americans are labeled as successful students, but new report reveals troubling shortcomings

Asian Americans are often seen as successful students, but the stereotype masks ‘incredibly disconcerting’ gaps in college achievement among the multiple ethnic groups that make up the broader California community, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Among full-time freshmen who entered the University of California in 2013, six-year graduation rates range from about 90 percent for those of Chinese, Vietnamese, and Indian descent to about 70. % for Samoan and Hmong undergraduate students, according to the Campaign for University Opportunities report. At California State University, about 85% of transfer students of Japanese and Filipino ancestry graduate in four years, compared to less than 70% for Native Hawaiian, Bangladeshi, and Tongan students.

The 95-page report details other stark differences in academic achievement between the Asian American and California Pacific Islander subgroups, including qualifying for admission to UC and California State, l completion of community college diploma or certificate programs and earning a bachelor’s degree. Data from 30 subgroups were reviewed.

“The Asian American community in California is incredibly diverse, and there are huge differences in college readiness, college entry, and academic achievement,” said Michele Siqueiros, president of the advocacy organization for universities. “It’s really harmful to lump all groups into one broad Asian American category when we know that kind of model minority myth is absolutely harmful to subgroups that don’t get the kind of support or don’t don’t know the kind of success…that some bands are experiencing.

California is home to about 6.8 million Asian Americans, the largest concentration in the country, and about 332,000 Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. The vast majority find their heritage in China, the Philippines, India, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan, but dozens of other groups also reside in the state. In total, they make up about 15% of the state’s population, the second largest racial/ethnic minority after Latinos.

The report notes a few positives: 59% of Asian Americans between the ages of 25 and 64 have a bachelor’s degree, the highest rate in the state among racial or ethnic groups. Their overall six-year graduation rate of 88% is the highest in the UC system, and their enrollment at UC and Cal State has remained stable between 2019 and 2021, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

But there was also disconcerting news: Only 22 percent of Californians of Hawaiian or Pacific Islander descent have a bachelor’s degree, one of the lowest rates in the state. And, although 82% of Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Californians who entered high school in 2017 graduated, less than half completed the college-prep courses required for admission to UC and college. the State of California.

The report highlighted other hidden nuances by grouping all Asian Americans, Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders into one category. In 2020, nearly half of California State freshmen in this broad community reported incomes low enough to receive a Federal Pell Grant, a proportion below the system average of 59%. But the rate varied widely by subgroup, ranging from 11% for students of Japanese ancestry to 80% for Hmong Californians.

However, the vast community has shared common struggles, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Anti-Asian hatred rose, small businesses closed at disproportionately high rates, long-term unemployment rates rose, and Native residents of Hawaii and the Pacific Islands had the highest rates of infections. COVID-19 and associated deaths among all racial and ethnic groups in the state. .

The myriad of stress affects students. Leila Tamale said the financial instability triggered by the pandemic prompted her to save money by attending community college instead of a four-year university. But she ultimately thrived at the College of San Mateo, she said, after joining a learning community designed for Pacific Islander students like her – called Mana – that provides academic support, personal development and cultural ties.

Such targeted programs are key to boosting the success of underserved subgroups in the community, Tamale said Tuesday during a Campaign for College Opportunity webinar.

The failure to recognize the diverse challenges faced by subgroups has led to the assumption that they have few issues and their “invisibility” in many conversations about equity, Siqueiros said.

The report notes, for example, that Asian American and Hawaiian/Pacific Islander faculty members are underrepresented compared to their white counterparts in the state’s three public higher education systems. Yet a current UC initiative to diversify the faculty focuses on black, Latino, and Native American scholars, neglecting Asian Americans.

And although Asian Americans make up the largest group of undergraduates in the UC system — 35% as of fall 2021 — only one of the 13 appointed members of the Board of Regents shares this racial background (five of 18 Board seats filled by gubernatorial appointment are currently vacant). According to Assemblyman Phil Ting (D-San Francisco), the lack of Asian American regents is seen as a big problem — and a top priority to address — by California’s Asian Pacific Islands Legislative Caucus .

The report recommends greater representation of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders on public higher education boards and more vigorous efforts to recruit faculty from these groups. In addition, the report calls for changes to expand access, increase financial aid, and close achievement gaps between subgroups.

“Asian Americans and NHPIs have a reputation for being successful students, with academic achievement data often painting a picture of a high-achieving group, especially for East Asian Americans. and the South,” the report said. “These perceptions, however, derive from group averages that mask variation in both access to higher education and post-university achievement … giving rise to a common misconception according to which Asian Americans and NHPIs attending our nation’s colleges and universities are universally successful without a need for better or more targeted support.

“Not only does this model minority myth harm students, it also hampers college leaders and policy makers to ensure that policy practices and decisions reflect the needs of their constituents,” the report concludes. .

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