Background/Context: Research on the postsecondary education of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) students has typically focused on attainment within four-year colleges and neglected the experiences of API students in community colleges. However, many API students pursuing postsecondary education, particularly Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander (SEAPI) students, do so through U.S. community colleges. The progress and achievement of these students in community college remains largely unstudied, due in part to the limited availability of disaggregated data.
Purpose/Objective/Research Question/Focus of Study: (1) To what extent do API students, and specifically SEAPI students, achieve community college progress milestones, such as enrollment, completion of gatekeeper courses, and attainment of degree- and transfer-applicable credits?
(2) How are these students progressing through developmental math?
Research Design: We examine the academic progress of API students using transcript data from a large California community college district. The disaggregated race/ethnicity data allow us to focus on oft-overlooked API subgroups. Focusing on SEAPI students, we analyze momentum towards key college persistence and completion milestones. We also track progression through developmental math education, one of the key barriers community college students face in completing community college.
Findings: In our disaggregated transcript analysis, we find that SEAPI students are less likely than their peers to achieve college milestones such as completing math courses and earning the degree-applicable units necessary for degree completion or transfer. Seeking explanations for these differences within the context of developmental education, we observe that SEAPI students are significantly less likely than their peers to attempt developmental math courses, though the data suggest they are more likely to complete courses when they do attempt them. These relationships hold after controlling for differences in the demographic characteristics of these students.
Conclusions/Recommendations: These findings point towards non-academic and institutional explanations for lower rates of college persistence and completion and offer direction for policy efforts and institutional practice to support these students.