While the enrollment numbers for some Asian ethnic groups are low and access to resources are limited, organizers of the campaign said such issues are ignored because the groups are widely identified as “Asian” and assumed to be academically and financially successful, victims of the "model minority stereotype."
Next year's [UC undergraduate] application will expand the number of Asian-American and Pacific Islander categories to 23 -- a nearly threefold increase from the current eight categories. The ethnic identification will continue to be optional and will not figure into admissions decisions, administrators said.
The 10-campus university adopted the change after thousands of students sent postcards to UC leaders as part of the "Count Me In" campaign, said William Kidder, a UC administrator who has studied Asian-American students. The effort will help the university track groups that have not been adequately studied, such as Hmong and Samoan students, he said.
...The number of Asian- Americans has surpassed white students in the UC system. ...But the numbers belie disparities within those groups, failing to illustrate the paucity of
students from certain countries. A UCLA study last year revealed that among adults 25 and older, 15 percent of Pacific Islanders had a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 17 percent of African-Americans, 30 percent of whites and 49 percent of Asian-Americans.
The traditional statistical grouping of Pacific Islanders with Asians has made it difficult to improve college-going rates, Kidder said. Many Americans assume all Asian and Pacific Islander students share the high success rates of Chinese, Korean and Japanese students, he said.
"The 'model minority' myth ... has tended to make some of the differences harder to
see," he said. "It's rendered disadvantaged groups invisible."
Studies have shown that students from several southeast Asian countries -- including Laos and
Cambodia -- are not as likely to attend college as those from Asian countries with more developed higher-education systems.
"Southeast Asians are not getting their needs specifically met," said Muang Saephan, a youth counselor with the Oakland-based organization Lao Family Community Development. "You have some families who just got here and are barely aware of what college is."
Many southeast Asian students come from families that fled war-torn countries, said Aline Xayasouk, a third-year UC Berkeley student of Laotian descent. The Laotian students from Richmond she tutors often live in poverty and do not fit in with the Asian stereotypes of their classmates, she said.
"They always feel that people don't understand them and why they're failing," Xayasouk said.
The new UC application will include Asian categories of Chinese, Taiwanese, Asian Indian, Pakistani, Japanese, Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese, Hmong, Thai, Cambodian, Laotian, Bangladeshi, Indonesian, Malaysian, Sri Lankan and other Asian applicants.
Pacific Islander categories will include Native Hawaiian, Guamanian/Chamorro, Samoan, Tongan, Fijian and others.
Lumping the groups together has prevented Pacific Islander groups from making the case for better funding for outreach programs, said Michael Tun'cap, a UC Berkeley doctoral student who grew up in Guam.
"It's long overdue for Pacific Islanders," he said. "The U.S. Census Bureau split the two groups eight years ago."
See Lynda Lin's excellent article from Pacific Citizen for more background.