Study: Asian-American students have highest unmet financial need

Study: Asian-American students have highest unmet financial need


LOS ANGELES — Asian Americans are the fastest growing population in the U.S., but recently released U.S. Department of Education data show that Asian American students have the largest gap between the cost of college and what they must pay—or unmet need.

“This further illuminates how the Asian ‘model minority’ myth is damaging to the success of Asian American communities and has wide-ranging implications postsecondary financial aid policies,” said the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).


In a recent report titled “When Financial Aid Falls Short,” the center found that nearly three in four students experience the unmet need, with the level of unmet need being higher among students of color compared to their white counterparts.  Compared to 66 percent of white students, 72 percent of Asian American students at public two-year institutions experience this unmet need.

The unmet need was particularly higher for Asian American students when looking at the dollar amounts.  The report said that dependent Asian American earning less than $27,900 and independent Asian American students earning less than $7,200 (which puts them in the bottom income quartile) have an average unmet need of $8,507.


“This is significantly higher than the average unmet need of $6,903 among all students in the bottom income quartile,” reads the report.

It added that the disparity remained true for Asian American students across all types of institution and income quartiles.

‘Model minority myth’ and disaggregated data

A closer look at the data also shows disparities among Asian Americans. For example, rates among Southeast Asian-Americans—particularly Hmong, Cambodian, Vietnamese, and Laotian—were higher than the national average.

Given that roughly half of all Asian Americans have at least a bachelor’s degree, the numbers revealed to be lower for certain Asian American groups.  Only 27 percent of Vietnamese American, 17 percent of Hmong and Cambodian Americans, 14 percent of Laotian Americans, and 11 percent of Bhutanese Americans were found to have the same educational attainment level.  One third of white in comparison, have a bachelor’s degree or higher.

“The model minority myth portrays Asian-Americans as a monolithic group that are both academically and professionally successful when compared to other communities of color,” reads the CLASP report.

While average and median incomes among Asian Americans is comparable to their white counterparts, looking at income inequality puts them at a greater difference among any other racial or ethnic group.


“In other words, the highest-earning Asian American have higher incomes on average than the highest-earning white; however, low-income Asian American are poorer on average than low-income whites.  The poverty rate among Asian Americans is also greater than white,” the report reads.

Despite reports highlighting the fact that Asian Americans are the fastest-growing population in the U.S. with a record 20 million tracing their roots back to the greater Asia continent, CLASP emphasized the importance of disaggregated data to fuel conversation on what factors would be driving the great levels of unmet need among Asian American students.

“Any number of these factors could be driving the high amount of unmet need among Asian American students,” said CLASP.  “That’s why we must use disaggregated data to inform the nuanced conversations that’ll help us understand the needs of Asian American students and how financial aid policies are failing them.”

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TAGS: “When Financial Aid Falls Short”, Asian American model minority myth, Asian American students, Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), cost of education, Rae Ann Varona, U.S. Department of Education data, unmet financial need
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