In the last few decades, Asian Americans have been attending and graduating from college in dramatic numbers, well above their overall proportion in the total U.S. population. Statistics from the Census show that almost 45% of all Asian Americans at least 25 years of age have a college degree or higher. Although many of these degrees are obtained back in their Asian country of origin before immigrant Asians came to the U.S., a large number represent degrees by foreign Asian students and U.S.-born Asian Americans. In 2000, the now defunct A. Magazine conducted a survey of its readers and research into which colleges and universities are the "best" for Asian Americans. The following are some of the results.
And The Winners Are . . .
In addition to students' comments and the objective statistics below, the A. Magazine article included statistics and charts on a wide range of factors that affected their overall ratings, including incidents of ethnic slurs and offensive language or behaviors, physical assualts, and other social environmental qualities. Unfortunately, I don't have the space to present all of that data, so I will only reprint some student comments and the charts for the top 15 Universities and the top 15 Libeal Arts Colleges.
The rest of the top 25 Universities:
- University of Texas, Dallas
- Wayne State University (Detroit, MI)
- University of Texas, Austin
- Carnegie Mellon University (Pittsburgh, PA)
- Stevens Institute of Technology (Hoboken, NJ)
- Ohio State University (Columbus, OH)
- University of Colorado, Boulder
- Washington State University (Pullman, WA)
- Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI)
- University of Florida (Gainesville, FL)
The rest of the top 25 Liberal Arts Colleges:
- Hamilton College (Clinton, NY)
- Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA)
- Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH)
- Scripps College (Claremont, CA)
- Colorado College (Colorado Springs, CO)
- Amherst College (Amherst, MA)
- Mills College (Oakland, CA)
- University of Puget Sound (Tacoma, WA)
- St. Mary's College of Maryland (St. Mary's City, MD)
- Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA)
Not surprisingly, the results seem to show that among universities, most of the best colleges for Asian Americans are located in the west (particularly in the University of California system), where the majority of Asian Americans live. Similarly, three out of the top seven liberal arts colleges are located in California. At the same time, other considerations were just as important as geographic location, including large proportions of the student population being Asian American and students of color, and a decent representation of Asian American faculty, administrators, and student organizations.
What Students Are Saying
"If you are of Asian descent, no doubt about it, Hawai'i is the place to be. In the Aloha state, Asian people and culture are the norm. It's the complete opposite of the mainland. I grew up in Maryland, lived in New York and California and I've never felt more comfortable in my life than here in Hawaii. For Asian Americans, if you choose to come to school at UH, you will be completely at home here." (University of Hawai'i at Manoa, Honolulu, HI)
"The issue of 'integration' is a loaded one in that many white students and staff often accuse students of color, specifically Asian American students, of being anti-integrationist because we feel the need to be politicized and develop leadership within our own community." (Pomona College, Claremont, CA)
"Had I known that the 20 percent population of Asian Americans on this campus [statistic] would be used against us (we are "over-represented'), I would have never come here. Right now my school believes that a multicultural office (a new development) will be sufficient to handle the diverse needs of not just students of color, but all women in general (mind you, my school is a women's college). The [administration has] no clue as to what true diversity is. I would advise anyone who values their culture and socioeconomic background not to come to Scripps College." (Scripps College, Claremont, CA)
"I feel your identity should not be a major factor in [choosing a college]. In fact, people who continue to choose a university solely based on its Asian American resources may easily miss out on plenty of opportunities found at other universities. For instance, my school has never been known to be 'conducive' to an Asian American identity, but this doesn't mean the school can't change. And if students of Asian descent choose not to attend just because of it's 'white-washed' history, then the school will never become conducive to an Asian American identity. I feel students who go where they feel comfortable will have a more difficult time reaching their full potential. Had I attended a predominately Asian American school, I probably would never have gotten involved in social justice issues, or become a strong student leader. At my school I was definitely beyond my comfort level as an Asian American, but living 'outside the box,' so to speak, strengthened my identity." (Ball State University, Muncie, IN)
"I attend an institution where the Asian student population is not even in the single-digit region. However, I am used to being the only Asian person in most all I do and attend. Since my school is in the south, I do get more strange and prejudice looks and attitudes, but I feel it has made me a stronger person." (East Carolina University, Greenville, NC)
"Although Asian Americans make up a very good fraction of the student population (about 37 percent), there isn't enough interaction between them and other ethnic groups on campus, especially white students. Many times I feel that Asians aren't warmly welcomed into groups that are white, but on the same note, many Asians prefer to stick to each other and refuse to venture outside their 'azn pride' cliques." (University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA)
"I am not an active participant in Asian American groups. Due to the fact that I do not have a clique of Asian friends, I find myself shunned by the Asian American community at times. Sometimes the case is that other ethnicities aren't racist, the prejudice and bigotry comes from those who are of one's own racial group." (Brown University, Providence, RI)
"Self-segregation among Asians is the largest factor leading to lack of integration into the main student body. This is the reason why I am not involved with these organizations. The college experience is more enriching if you befriend others on the basis of factors other than race, such as, say, personality! If you want to befriend Asians, it's easy enough, but joining an organization is mainly an outlet for people who are not accustomed to being in diverse environments." (Brown University, Providence, RI)
"Northwestern University is a different environment for Asian Americans. The Asian American population is about 15 percent. Coming from California, I experience a different feel/environment for Asian Americans. It is not wrapped up in materialism and the 'gangster' image. Asian Americans seem more serious and down-to-earth here. Northwestern University is developing an Asian American studies program which has been in the works thanks to previous students. A minor will be ready next year. The Asian American Advisory Board (AAAB) is a notable Asian American club on campus. They fought for Asian American studies through petitions and hunger strikes. Other Asian American clubs have brought notable Asian-Americans to campus, including Martin Yan, Margaret Cho, Elaine Kim, and Lisa Ling. Though sometimes I miss the University of Cali Asian scene sometimes, Northwestern University is a good blend of Asian American activism and community." (Northwestern University, Evanston, IL)
"The University of Maryland is not perfect and with such a large school, hate crimes are bound to happen. As ironic as it might sound, these hate crimes have forged a stronger coalition amongst all the different communities and allowed us to fight such social injustices with a burning passion." (University of Maryland, College Park, MD)
"I used to be a part of the Asian American Association on the MU campus, but recently have lost contact with the group because of their increasingly extremist views. An 'everyone is out to get me' stance on life is unappealing to me, egotistical and promotes placing blame on someone else's shoulders, I would not trade away my race to make my life 'easier.' And I'm not going to lean on my race as a crutch throughout my life." (University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO)
"Although I've never been called an ethnic slur, there is an undercurrent in UC Berkeley that follows these lines: whites think that Asians are the model minority and that we're second class citizens in America who are overall passive and submissive. Other minorities think there are too many Asian Americans in college and that we 'side' with whites on important issues. The result is, whites pat us on the head for being 'model' and other minorities dislike us because they think we are 'model."' (University of California, Berkeley)
"I attend Indiana University in Bloomington, where Benjamin Smith shot Won Joon Yoon last July 4th. The atmosphere hasn't been the same since. I find the belated increased interest in Asians and multiculturalism by the white majority a bit insulting. It is surprising how many people assume that all Asian students know each other." (Indiana University, Bloomington, IN
"I loved Barnard. My only complaint is that occasionally my professors would cut me off when I would speak in class. I felt that they sometimes expected me to be the stereotype of the quiet Asian student." (Barnard College, New York, NY)
As you can see, just as there is a wide diversity of political perspectives within the Asian American community, there is an entire range of students' opinions and experiences when it comes to what type of school is the "best" for Asian Americans. In the end, Asian American students should do their homework, so to speak, and research the schools they're interested in carefully, including visiting the campus if possible and at the very least, talking to Asian American students who already know the scene there. Above all, students should remember that college is a place to learn, academically and socially.
Data and student comments copyright © 2000 by aMedia. Reprinted in accordance with Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976.
Suggested reference: aMedia. 2000. "Best Colleges for Asian Americans." Asian-Nation: The Landscape of Asian America. <http://www.asian-nation.org/best-colleges.shtml> ().
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