Gaps in Asian American, Pacific Islander Student Outcomes

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A new report released Tuesday by the Campaign for College Opportunity, a California-based organization focused on closing equity gaps in education, found that grouping together Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in collecting student outcomes data obscures significant variations among these communities.

“For a long time, Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPIs) have been categorized as one monolithic group,” Cirian Villavicencio, who leads the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs and chairs the Higher Education & Equity Committee, said in a press release. “This perpetuates the Model Minority myth that misleadingly posits that all of our communities thrive; and in particular, our AANHPI students succeed academically and do not need help. In fact, we know that this myth distorts the reality that many AANHPI students struggle and need the extra support.”

The report examined the college preparation, enrollment and graduation rates of at least 30 Asian ethnic groups in California and discovered some notable disparities. For example, 84 percent of Asian American Californians who graduated high school in 2018 enrolled in college within a year. But only 59 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders who graduated enrolled in college within that time frame, according to the report. Only 22 percent of Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the state between ages 25 and 64 held a bachelor’s degree, compared to 59 percent of Asian Americans in that age group. Certain Asian American and Pacific Islander groups in California, including Laotians and Samoans, had even lower degree attainment rates.

“The gaps in college preparation, college going, and college success within the various Asian ethnic groups is incredibly disconcerting,” the report concludes. “For our state to provide a real pathway to college, where race/ethnicity and zip code do not determine the future of any talented student, we must begin by recognizing the diversity of Asian American and NHPI Californians and the vast differences in their experiences in our educational systems.”

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