Shining a Light on Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders’ Crucial Role in Higher Education

RJ Nichol
May 14, 2021

Thanks to population growth and educational achievement, Asian American students will continue to play a key role in U.S. colleges and universities — but discrimination clouds the outlook.

For this year’s Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month, we’re dedicating a weekly blog series to examining Asian American students’ important contributions to higher education.

This week’s discussion examines some of the ways Asian American students are poised to continue thriving on campus — and helping our institutions thrive, as well. We also examine the challenges they continue to face.

Did you know…?

The population is young — and growing:

  • The U.S. Asian population grew 81% between 2000 and 2019, to 18.9 million. The Pacific Island/Native Hawaiian population grew 61%.1
  • The U.S. Asian population is expected to reach 35.8 million by 2060. 1
  • In the past 20 years, the Asian American population has increased in all 50 states. 1
  • Among U.S.-born Asians, 58% were members of Generation Z in 2019 and 25% were members of the Millennial generation.

Educational achievement is above average:

  • Most Asian Americans who are 25 or older (54%) have at least a bachelor’s degree, compared with 33% of the overall U.S. population age 25 and older.2
  • Asian college students who earned a bachelor’s degree were less likely to borrow than any other group.2
  • Among high school seniors, Asian students have achieved the highest levels of “proficient” and “advanced” math and reading skills.2

There’s still low representation at the faculty level:

  • At degree-granting postsecondary institutions in 2018, 8% of full-time professors were Asian/Pacific Islander males; just 3% were Asian/Pacific Islander females.3

Discrimination remains rampant:

  • 87% of Asian Americans said they face “a lot or some” discrimination in society.1
  • 31% said they have been subjected to slurs or jokes during the pandemic, and 26% said they fear being threatened or harassed because of their ethnicity or race.1

Please visit this space again next week to learn more about the vital role that Asian Americans and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islanders play on our campus and in society, and check out our first post in this blog series as well.

1Source: Pew Research Center, “Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the U.S.” April 9, 2021.
2Source: Pew Research Center, “Key facts about Asian Americans, a diverse and growing population.” April 29, 2021.
3Source: National Center for Education Statistics, “Race/ethnicity of college faculty.” 2020
4Source: American Council on Education, “Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education – 2020 Supplement Executive Summary.” 2020

RJ Nichol

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