Press Releases

August 7, 2015

Joy Yoo

College Readiness Rates Deviate Significantly for Asian and Pacific Islander American Students

ACT and APIASF Reports Suggest Need for Improvement in Educational Quality

IOWA CITY, IOWA—Asian graduates in the U.S. high school class of 2014 outperformed all other groups in meeting key benchmarks for college readiness, while Pacific Islander students were significantly less likely to meet the same benchmarks as their peers, 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 2014: Asian Students and The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2014: Pacific Islander Students, examine the academic preparation and postsecondary aspirations of students in these two groups among 2014 high school graduates who took the ACT® test.

While data for Asian and Pacific Islander (APIA) students are often combined, these reports separate the results and reveal a wide chasm between outcomes for the two groups. For instance, 57 percent of Asian students met at least three of the four ACT College Readiness Benchmarks, compared to 24 percent of Pacific Islander students.

"These reports show how important it is to pay attention to the vast discrepancies within a diverse group of students that are often regarded collectively as the 'model minority,'" said Jim Larimore, ACT chief officer for the advancement of underserved students. "The reality is more complex, particularly for those students who come from low-income families or are the first in their families to go to college."

"Asian and Pacific Islander American students are often overlooked as individuals in need of educational support and guidance," said Neil Horikoshi, president and executive director of APIASF. "The successes of some have masked the struggles of many. These reports are critical to exposing the overlooked needs of APIA students nationwide. As we continue to disaggregate data and understand the complexity of the APIA community, we are grateful for our partnership with ACT and important work like these reports to dispel the 'model minority' myth."

Across all four subject areas measured by the ACT—English, math, reading and science—Asian students were more likely than all other racial/ethnic groups to meet readiness benchmarks, while Pacific Islander students were less likely than many of their peers to meet benchmarks in each subject area.

Nearly 5,700 Pacific Islander graduates from the class of 2014 took the ACT compared to just over 80,000 Asian graduates from the same class. From 2010-2014, the number of ACT test-taking Asian graduates increased by 23 percent, while the number of Pacific Islander students remained steady.

Although the large majority of both Asian and Pacific Islander students report planning to enroll in college—85 percent for Asians, 83 percent for Pacific Islanders—52 percent of Asian students said they plan to earn a graduate or professional degree compared to 33 percent of Pacific Islander students.

The research-based ACT College Readiness Benchmarks specify the minimum scores students must earn on each of the four subject tests (English, math, reading, and science) to have about a 75 percent chance of earning a grade of C or higher in a typical credit-bearing first-year college course in the corresponding subject area. ACT research suggests that students who meet the benchmarks are more likely than those who do not to persist in college and earn a degree.

The ACT/APIASF reports use data from more than 1.8 million ACT-tested 2014 high school graduates. During ACT registration, students are asked to provide information about parental education, high school course taking and postsecondary aspirations.

The Asian American report is available at:, and the Pacific Islander report is at:


Based in Washington, D.C., the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) is the nation's largest nonprofit provider of college scholarships for Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) students. APIASF works to create opportunities for students to access, complete, and succeed after post-secondary education; thereby developing future leaders who will excel in their career, serve as role models in their communities, and will ultimately contribute to a vibrant America. Since 2003, APIASF has distributed more than $80 million in scholarships to APIA students across the country and in the Pacific Islands. APIASF manages three scholarship programs: APIASF's general scholarship, the APIASF Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions scholarship program, and the Gates Millennium Scholars/Asian Pacific Islander Americans funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.