APIA Students


Facebook Twitter Mail


The APIA population represents a vast range of demographic characteristics that are distinct from any other racial group in the U.S. in terms of its heterogeneity (e.g., more than 48 ethnicities, over 300 spoken languages, various socioeconomic statuses, immigration history and shifts, culture, and religion). 

Some of these demographic characteristics include:

  • The number of APIAs in poverty increased by 38 percent between 2007 and 2011, with a EXECUTIVE SUMMARY A National Report on the Needs and Experiences of Low-Income Asian American and Pacific Islander Scholarship Recipients 9 37 percent increase of Asian Americans and a 60 percent increase of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders experiencing poverty. 
  • APIAs attend a mix of highly selective and less selective two-year and four-year colleges and universities.1 Nearly 50 percent of APIAs are enrolled in community college, many of whom enter postsecondary studies with lower proficiencies in math and other core competencies than APIA students attending four-year institutions.
  • APIA ethnic groups have varying rates of college enrollment, persistence, and degree attainment; for instance, data resulting from a three-year American Community Survey across 2006–2008 indicate that 56.1 percent of Pacific Islanders and 45.1 percent Southeast Asians ages 25–34, enrolled in college and left without a degree.

Studies specifically on low-income and first-generation APIA students are sparse and this gap in research needs to be addressed to better support them in the context of higher education. The current report focuses on a segment of the APIA student population coming from low-income backgrounds, many of which are underserved populations. The term “underserved” is typically used in higher education literature to describe students of color, low-income students, students who are the first in their families to attend college, and other students whose demographic backgrounds have often times meant they have faced challenges in degree attainment.  In 2005, Yeh identified a set of factors that place APIA students at risk for not completing college, including socioeconomic status, parents’ education, language, immigration status, family support and guidance, institutional climate, and the model minority stereotype. Additionally, many APIA students must maintain their role as caretakers, translators, breadwinners, and “cultural brokers” for their families and communities.

While the physical, emotional, and mental energy required to negotiate these various demands may have an effect on APIA students’ capacities to transition to and persist through college, it is also worth recognizing the resiliency that many APIA students develop and demonstrate in their pursuit of a degree. A growing number of higher education researchers assert that validating the needs of APIA students from a culturally relevant paradigm contributes positively to student success, signaling a need for further research in the areas listed above, with the resulting data and findings serving to guide programmatic strategies and practices that promote access and success in higher education for low-income and first-generation APIA students. APIASF conducted the needs assessment analyses detailed in this report as a direct response to this need.


Asian American and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Categories and Ethnicities

East Asian:

  • Chinese
  • Iwo Jiman
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Okinawan
  • Taiwanese 


  • Filipino

Other Asian:

  • Burmese
  • Indonesian
  • Malaysian
  • Singaporean
  • Thai

South Asian/Desi:

  • Bangladeshi
  • Bhutanese
  • Indian
  • Maldivian
  • Nepalese
  • Pakistani
  • Sri Lankan

Southeast Asian:

  • Cambodian
  • Hmong
  • Laotian
  • Mien
  • Montagnard
  • Vietnamese

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander Pacific Islander (NHPI):

  • Carolinian
  • Chamorro/Guamanian
  • Chuukese
  • Fijian
  • Gilbertese
  • I-Kiribati
  • Kosraean
  • Maori
  • Mariana Islander
  • Marshallese
  • Niue Islander
  • Ni-Vanuatu
  • Palauan
  • Papua New Guinean
  • Pohnpeian
  • Saipanese
  • Samoan
  • Solomon Islander
  • Tahitian
  • Tokelauan
  • Tongan
  • Yapese

Mixed Race:

Identified with multiple racial categories as defined by the OMB standards

Multiethnic Asian American Multiethnic APIA: Identified with multiple ethnicities within one racial category and Pacific Islander (APIA)

Other Race or Ethnicity:

Other: Identified with a race or ethnicity outside of the OMB-defined Asian race and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander race