Education Woes: Challenges Faced by Asian-American Students

California Exit Exam

In an online conference held late last month, Michele Siqueiros, president for the Campaign for College Opportunity, highlighted a study conducted by a non-governmental organization that shed light on the various challenges faced by ethnic minorities, specifically Asian-Americans in California, pursuing a college education.

From the report – which focused on issues related to education attainment, enrollment, readiness and graduation rates – Siqueiros was able to determine that government officials along with college and university representatives did very little to ensure access to quality education to Asian-American students, many of whom fall under the category of underrepresented minorities and thus may not have the resources necessary to apply for a degree program.

According to Siqueiros, whose non-profit ‘Campaign for College Opportunity’ actively promotes the need for state funding to ensure the provision of high education and increased enrollment, nearly 87% of Asian-Americans college students in California are enrolled in public universities, thus bringing to light the various complexities involved in private college admissions and underscoring the need to enhance the quality of public higher education in the state.

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Though the data from the report pertained to students residing in California, many experts agree that such is the state of conditions in most parts of the United States. Universities all over the country are beginning to face allegations from various parties related to discrimination against Asian-American students.

Some of these universities even rank in the top-tier of their category. In May of this year, the Asian American Coalition filed a complaint with the U.S Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights against Harvard University for rejecting the application of an Asian-American student in Florida. According to the coalition, even though Asian-Americans, on average, do better than other minorities, such as African-Americans and Hispanics, yet it still does not guarantee an admission into any one of America’s most prestigious universities.

Princeton University, in an attempt to determine the gravity of the issue, in a recent study made use of SAT scores as a way of measuring the extent to which factors such as race and ethnicity influence student admissions. The key highlight of the study were the extra SAT points or ‘bonus’ an applicant’s race was worth.

According to the study, Asian Americans are penalized by 50 points. In comparison, African-Americans received 230 extra points while Hispanics received 185 extra points.

The results were evident as Ann Lee, a counselor who gives briefings on relevant factors related to college admissions such application deadlines and the number of Advanced Placement tests a student may have to take, clearly states, “Do Asians need higher test scores? Is it harder for Asians to get into college? The answer is yes.”

For many Asian-American families, it is a serious issue so much so that many of them have gone to the extents of enlisting the services of companies that specialize in image management of aspiring candidates, i.e. they do their best to have applicants appear ‘less Asian.’

“While it is controversial, this is what we do. We will make them appear less Asian when they apply,” explains Brian Taylor, the director of Ivy Coach, one of many such companies located in Manhattan that helps families prepare their students for admissions in elite colleges. Much of the advice Taylor gives to families revolves around the need to appear as someone who is not obsessed with getting grades and who engages in activities that are not seen as typically ‘Asian’. “Schools don’t want students who care too much about their grades,” says Taylor. “They want kids who love learning.”

Though many advocates of schools and colleges, in their defense, claim that the Asian demographic itself is largely complex, with many students hailing from India, China, and Southeast Asia, there are still many parents and associations that are raising a lot of hue and cry against, what they are calling, deliberate discrimination against Asian-American students. What remains to be seen, however, is if the government is willing to take action or if it is content in how things continue to operate. Only time will tell.

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