Asian-American students hurt by race category

The numbers don't lie when it comes to the Asian American Pacific Islander designation in higher education.
The numbers don’t lie when it comes to the Asian American Pacific Islander designation in higher education.

For nearly a decade NYU professor Robert T. Teranishi has researched the disparity in college achievement and opportunity between racial groups. But, over the last few years, a glaring problem in the data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has begun to emerge for him.

The category is simply too broad, masking serious disparities within the group. Teranishi recently collaborated with two likeminded researchers – Samuel D. Museus and Dina C. Maramba – to create an alternative book of scholarship on the subject, “The AAPI Experience: New Insights on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the Implications for Higher Education.”

“There certainly are some AAPI subgroups in the U.S. that have high educational attainment, but that masks what’s happening to a number of other struggling subgroups, whose needs are being overlooked, because of the perception that all Asians are doing well in college,” says Teranishi.

Featuring over a dozen top AAPI scholars in the U.S., the book features empirical research on many oft-overlooked experiences within the AAPI designation – from Asian evangelical Christians, to Hmong Americans, and a myriad of others.

“A lot of scholars are starting to see how AAPI students are misunderstood and overlooked when it comes to policy debates. How we think of these groups has real effects on how we create campus services and programs,” says Teranishi. “But I think now we’re finally reaching a critical mass of research on the needs of AAPI students.”

By the numbers:

In 2007, 59.6 percent of all Asians in the United States 25 to 29-years-old had a college degree. But only 18 percent of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders of the same age had a degree. The AAPI designation combines all of these groups into the same category.


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