Higher Education:

Information Sharing Could Help Institutions Identify and Address Challenges Some Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Students Face

GAO-07-925: Published: Jul 25, 2007. Publicly Released: Jul 25, 2007.

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As a group, Asian American and Pacific Islanders represent about 5 percent of the U.S. population and hold about 8 percent of the college degrees. To better understand the educational attainment and average incomes of the subgroups that comprise this population, the Committee asked: 1) What are Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups' educational attainment and household income levels? (2) What challenges, if any, Asian American and Pacific Islander students face in pursuing and completing their post-secondary education? and (3) What federal and institutional resources do institutions with large Asian American and Pacific Islander student enrollment use to address the particular needs of these students? GAO analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Education (Education) and spoke with officials and Asian American and Pacific Islander students at eight postsecondary institutions.

As a group, Asian American and Pacific Islanders have attained high levels of education and income, but differences among Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups exist. For example, a greater percentage of Asian Indians and Chinese in the United States had college degrees than Vietnamese, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and Indochinese--Cambodians, Laotians, and Hmong. Asian Indians had the highest and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders and Indochinese had the lowest average income among employed Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups. Data limitations, including challenges linking data sources, prevented GAO from fully exploring the reasons for the differences among subgroups. Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups--while in high school--face a range of challenges that may affect their ability to persist in college. According to GAO's analysis of Education's data, Asian American and Pacific Islander subgroups differ in their levels of academic preparedness, ability to pay for college, and their need to balance academic, employment, and family obligations. The postsecondary institutions that GAO visited used both federal grants and their own resources to address the needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander students. The schools used federal aid to institutions to provide tutoring services and to supplement Pell Grants for selected students. The schools also applied their own funds to provide a range of services, including outreach to high school students, scholarships, tutoring, and financial aid application and tuition assistance. School officials told GAO that they could benefit from learning about programs and strategies other schools might be using to assist high school and college students.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Institutional Development and Undergraduate Education Service (IDUES) office sent electronic letters to the Title III-funded institutions that serve Asian American and Pacific Islander students. These letters requested that the recipients send back information they had about (1) "success stories" in fostering low-income postsecondary student recruitment, retention, and graduation; and (2) about strategies to reach out to low-income students beginning in high school. Grantees were asked specifically to include strategies for reaching Asian American and Pacific Islander students. The Department then posted successful strategies on the Office of Postsecondary Education Web site in January 2008.

    Recommendation: To assist postsecondary institutions that serve Asian American and Pacific Islander students, particularly students from low-income families, the Secretary of Education should facilitate the sharing of information among institutions about strategies that foster low-income postsecondary student recruitment, retention, and graduation and also sharing of information about strategies to reach out to Asian American and Pacific Islanders beginning in high school. There are various ways that Education could facilitate sharing information. For example, Education might develop a link on the department's Web site that postsecondary institutional officials could use to share information about their student assistance activities or develop a compendium of best practices for assisting Asian American and Pacific Islander students.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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