Report Highlights Wide Contrasts in College Readiness Among Asian American and Pacific Islander Students

IOWA CITY, Iowa— College readiness rates differ widely among Asian American and Pacific Islander students, with Asian American students outperforming national averages, and Pacific Islander students falling below the same averages, according to two new reports released today from ACT and the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF).

The reports, The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Asian American Students and The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Pacific Islander Students, examine the academic preparation and postsecondary aspirations of students in these two groups among 2015 high school graduates who took the ACT® test.

Asian American students outperformed national averages, with 60 percent meeting at least three of the four key readiness benchmarks (English, reading, math and science), compared to a national average of 40 percent. Only 26 percent of Pacific Islander students met the same threshold.

While data for Asian American and Pacific Islander students are often combined, these reports disaggregate the results for each group and show a marked chasm between outcomes for both groups. About 6,100 Pacific Islander 2015 high school graduates took the ACT, while 87,500 Asian American high school graduates took the ACT. Over the last five years, the number of Asian American students taking the ACT has increased by 31 percent, and the number for Pacific Islander students has grown by more than 4,000, tripling in size.

“About one-third of immigrants who enter the United States are Asian, and they immigrate from vastly different places, comprising 48 ethnicities and speaking more than 300 different languages,” said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved learners. “While there isn’t a single approach that will work for all students in this diverse group, these findings show us the need to pay more attention to the substantive differences in school contexts that impact students’ learning experiences and outcomes.”

Mr. Larimore is speaking on the findings today at APIASF’s seventh annual Higher Education Summit in Washington D.C. Since 2010, APIASF has leveraged the insights achieved from the Higher Education Summit Series to mobilize communities and resources to address the academic, leadership, and professional development needs of AAPI students.

According to the reports, Asian American students who took core courses met each of the four benchmarks at much higher rates than Pacific Islander students: in each of the four subject areas, Asian Americans in core courses met benchmarks at rates at least 25 percent higher than their Pacific Islander peers in the same group.

“These reports demonstrate the vast differences among Asian American and Pacific Islander students that are often overlooked in much of the other existing education data,” said Neil Horikoshi, president and executive director for APIASF. “The report findings are critical to highlighting the need for educational support and guidance for AAPI students nationwide. We are grateful for our partnership with ACT in the effort disaggregate data increase awareness on the complexity of the AAPI community.”

Key report findings include:

  • English and math: Across all four benchmarks, Asian American students performed best in English, with 75 percent meeting the English benchmark; and 69 percent meeting the math benchmark.
  • English and reading: The highest benchmarks for Pacific Islander students were English and reading, with 47 percent meeting the English benchmark and 31 percent meeting the reading benchmark.
  • College plans: Aspirations to attend college are similarly high among both groups, with 84 percent of Asian Americans planning to pursue a postsecondary degree, compared to 82 percent of Pacific Islander students.

As part of ongoing efforts to increase access and equity for all students, ACT recently began offering free access to the new version of ACT Online Prep™, a web-based resource that helps students prepare to take the ACT test, to students from low-income families who register for a national ACT test date with a fee waiver.

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Asian American Students is available online at:

The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015: Pacific Islander Students is available online at:

The National Condition of College & Career Readiness 2015 report is available here: