Fictions on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

Fiction 1: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are taking over U.S. higher education.

Colleges and Universities like UCLA and MIT have been labeled as ‘United Caucasians Lost Among Asians’ and ‘Made in Taiwan’. Americans believe AAPI are enrolling into colleges/universities in high numbers; however, this statement is actually false. According to UMN admissions website, AAPI are second in numbers behind Whites at the University of Minnesota . While this is true, it misrepresents AAPI compared to Blacks, Whites, Latinos, American Indians because AAPI can be broken up into many different ethnic groups compared to the other groups. AAPI combines groups like Hmong, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Lao, Thai, etc. which is why we are second in numbers at the University of Minnesota.

Going back to my first medium post, AAPI at postsecondary institutions, I talked about the low numbers of Hmong college students. As a Hmong college student myself, I feel strong about the weak relationship between Hmong people and higher education. Everyone is different, so I am not trying to say all Hmong high school students should go to college. However, I think it’s sad that many of them choose not to go because they don’t have money and support. Most Hmong college students are first-generation, so it is a big step for them and their families as they are trying to create this better life.

I also think another stereotype on AAPI is that most of them pursue STEM fields. I have heard people say to me, “You’re Asian, so you must be smart at math and science.” I’m thinking, “Like what? Just because I’m Asian doesn’t mean I’m automatically smart in STEM field — I put the effort to get the result I want.” I do like math and science, but I personally don’t think it’s for me. I like learning about languages/culture, helping people, building relationships, working with one-on-one/small groups, communicating to others, and understanding about one’s background. I guarantee I’m not the only one who isn’t pursuing a major in STEM; in fact, there is a larger share awarded to AAPI majoring in Social Sciences and Humanities when you combine the national average (Department of Education 2006). Thus, not all AAPI are alike which is why it is not true that most are pursuing majors in STEM.

Fiction 2: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are concentrated only in selective four-year universities.

This goes back to the stereotype where AAPI are ‘smart’ in school — No! Yes, it’s possible that AAPI can get into selective postsecondary institutions; however,we forget to think about the vast majority of AAPI. Actually, most of them are enrolled at non-selective or minimally selective two-year and four-year postsecondary institutions. We also have to think about most of them are low social class and limited English speakers, so these factors hinder their admittance at selective colleges. Even if AAPI do receive more financial aid from the government, it may still not cover most of the tuition and fees and it depends on where they go for college too. A lot of them end up doing work-study, pay out of pocket, or take out loans in order to pay it off.

Since financing for college can be difficult for AAPI students and families, students are choosing to attend community colleges. According to the Department of Education, AAPI enrollment in community colleges increase 73.3% compared to 42% increase in public universities and 53% increase in private universities. WHY IS THIS? Again, it’s because of factors such as low social class and limited English-language ability. There are most AAPI who don’t know what they want to do as a career, so they end up attending community college in order to save thousands of money compared to attending universities.

However, I am proud to stand with other motivating Hmong college students at the University of Minnesota — Twin Cities. There is not that many Hmong people who quickly say they want to go a public four-year university, so I give props to the ones who are making a difference for the Hmong community. It’s that time where we must lead new generations of Hmong people to obtain higher education. We must prove the statistics I provided on my first medium post wrong and say we can also be successful as Whites and other Asian ethnic groups. Higher education is possible for us and it’s our responsibility to take those first steps.

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