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Study measures challenges for Asian, Pacific Islander students

By Eliza Blackorby

Oct. 28, 2015 1:09 a.m.

A report released Tuesday by a nongovernmental organization presented data that detailed challenges faced by specific ethnicities within the Asian American and Pacific Islander student population in California.

Michele Siqueiros, president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, said during an online conference that she thinks state officials do not ensure that access and opportunity for college preparation is available to all students, especially underrepresented minorities such as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who may not have the same resources as other students.

The Campaign for College Opportunity is a nonprofit based in California that advocates for state funding of higher education and increased enrollment of California students.

Siqueiros said the report primarily addressed issues of education attainment, enrollment, readiness and graduation rates, which all vary for different Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

She added the organization’s study is the first that doesn’t treat Asian American and Pacific Islander students as an aggregate group, using data from the University of California system, last year’s census, U.S. Department of Education, the California State University system and the California Community Colleges system.

Timothy Fong, project director of the Full Circle Project, which aims to increase graduation rates of Asian American and Pacific Islander students at Sacramento State University, said the lack of strong community in many colleges holds many students back.

He added he thinks colleges could achieve higher retention rates and GPAs for their underrepresented students by creating greater community solidarity through student organizations and initiatives.

Stewart Kwoh, founding president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Los Angeles, a legal and civil rights organization focusing on Asian Americans, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders, said he felt the new data was an improvement compared to the aggregate data, by accounting for the diverse range of ethnic groups and their differences in achievement.

He said some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been in the United States for generations, while some are recent immigrants and others came here as refugees. Kwoh added these varied experiences, along with differences in income and generational education attainment, provide context for the obstacles students face.

Siqueiros said the data shows 73 percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander and 87 percent of Asian American California college students attend public universities, indicating the importance of public higher education. Almost half of the undocumented students in the University of California system are Asian American, Siqueiros added.

She added the Public Policy Institute of California found the state will be about one million college graduates short of filling jobs necessary to the state economy. Siqueiros said the Campaign for College Opportunity is attempting to combat the trend by advocating for greater state funding to expand enrollment in universities.

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Eliza Blackorby
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