Regardless of where they go to college, Asian American students have more unmet financial need than any other racial or ethnic group, according to a report from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Unmet need — the gap between the total cost of college and the financial aid and family assistance that students receive — is a burden for many students, but it is disproportionately hampering Asian Americans.
On average, low-income students attending public four-year universities face $12,792 a year of unmet need, but for low-income Asian American students at those schools, the average unmet need is $16,756, according to the report.
This trend is consistent across all income brackets and types of schools.
For example, students from upper-middle-class families attending private not-for-profit schools face an average $15,124 a year in unmet need. For Asian American students from similar financial backgrounds, attending those schools will leave them with an average annual unmet need of $25,355, according to the report.
Although CLASP authors can’t say for sure, they speculate that the disparities may, in part, result from the “model minority” myth, which portrays Asian Americans as being more academically and professionally successful than other minority groups.
Stereotyping Asian Americans in this way can negatively impact college and university financial aid policies, according to CLASP.
In fact, the “model minority” myth almost couldn’t be further from the truth. Asian Americans come from very diverse financial backgrounds.
“Across all races/ethnicities, Asian-Americans are the most income-stratified,” Lauren Walizer wrote in the report. “While some Asian-American subpopulations are as financially secure as whites, many others live in deep poverty.”
In addition, the disparity could be influenced by international students who have limited access to financial aid and are not eligible for in-state tuition, Walizer suggested in the report.
Solving the national “unmet need” problem
Although Asian Americans face the greatest dollar amount of unmet need, students throughout the United States are struggling to afford a degree in higher education.
“When policymakers don’t address unmet need, college becomes increasingly unaffordable and
inaccessible for all students but particularly students of color, who comprise a growing share
of our nation’s college-going population,” Walizer wrote in the report.
The problem must be solved at its roots — the state and federal governments.
“To address students’ unmet need, states should restore funding for postsecondary education and prioritize investments in state aid programs that are need-based, inclusive of all students and enrollment patterns, and used to strategically to target awards to students with unmet
need,” Walizer wrote.
The report also points out that federal Pell Grants, which are administered by the U.S. Department of Education, have been declining in value for decades. So at the federal level, Walizer suggests the government should also allocate its investments towards revamping its need-based aid programs.
In addition, she suggests implementing free college programs that prioritize students with the greatest unmet need.
A detailed list, including all of the recommendations, is included in the report.
“Equitable access to postsecondary education that is both affordable and high-quality is essential to creating a productive and dynamic economy,” Walizer wrote. “Federal and state policymakers and institutions should take advantage of the many policy options available to eliminate student unmet need.”
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Jackson Schroeder is a graduate of Ohio University with a B.A. in Journalism from the E.W. Scripps School. He is originally from Savannah, Georgia. Jackson has covered a wide range of topics, including sustainability, technology, sports, culture, travel, and music. He plays bass and guitar, and enjoys playing and listening to live music in his free time.