Report Reveals College Equity Gaps Among California’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Students

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A new report released this week by the nonprofit Campaign for College Opportunity found disparities in graduation and community college transfer rates between Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) students in California.

The state is home to nearly 6.8 million Asian Americans and over 330,000 Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs). This population includes more than 30 different ethnic groups, but most institutions do not disaggregate student data for AANHPIs. As a result, group averages mask differences in student outcomes and further perpetuate the “model minority” myth, according to the report.

For example, the report found variances among students who enrolled in college one year after graduating from high school. During the 2017-2018 academic year, 84 percent of Asian American students enrolled, compared with only 59 percent of NHPIs.

These disparities extend to transfer rates from California community colleges to public universities. In the 2013-2014 academic year, 42 percent of Chinese students transferred to a four-year institution within six years of enrolling at a community college. That number is only 19 percent for Samoan students.

Furthermore, college completion rates vary significantly across these ethnic groups. At the University of California, 94 percent of Sri Lankan students earned an undergraduate degree within six years, but only 50 percent of Tongas earned a degree in the same amount of time.

“While using ‘Asian American’ broadly may benefit members of the community by promoting unity and broadening the networks and coalitions advocating for the needs of Asian American and NHPI Californians, disaggregated data and understanding the diversity and complexity within the population is essential,” the report states. “Failing to disaggregate the data and understand the variations that exist within the Asian American and NHPI communities will result in educational practices and policymaking that fails to fully understand or address the needs of California’s Asian American and NHPI residents.”