Educational Attainment Challenges Among AAPIs
When we examine Asian American and Pacific Islander educational attainment, there is some cause for celebration but much cause for concern. Click here or scroll down to read more >>
Network News

ProjectAttain!, one of the newest members of the Graduate! Network, launched their website and monthly newsletter in April. Click here or scroll down to learn more >>

Comebacker Spotlight

After more than 35 years in the workforce, June Watson-Sherman went back to college to finish her associate degree. Now she's one of ProjectAttain!'s first community volunteers. Click here or scroll down to read more >>
Upcoming Events of Interest

Join Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) for a webinar examining the characteristics of White supremacy culture in order to uproot and replace them. Click here or scroll down to learn more >>
Educational Attainment Challenges Among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders

The month of May was designated as Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month in 1992. It is a time to celebrate the history, culture, and achievements of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, or AAPIs, as well as to recognize and honor the countless contributions they have made to enrich our nation.

This month, it is especially important to reflect on how AAPI Heritage Month encourages us to examine and address the racism and discrimination specifically leveled against AAPIs, both currently and in the past.  

When we examine AAPI educational attainment, there is some cause for celebration but much cause for concern.

The average levels of educational attainment among Asian Americans are high. According to Lumina’s “A Stronger Nation” tool, 65 percent of Asian Americans ages 25-64 hold an associate degree or higher. This is the highest attainment rate by race/ethnicity, sitting well above the national average of 42 percent. Only 28 percent of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, however, who are listed as a separate racial/ethnic category from Asian Americans, hold an associate degree or higher (Figure 1).

Furthermore, measuring the educational attainment rate of Asian Americans as one racial/ethnic group masks masks significant disparities among Asian subpopulations (Figure 2).

According to a 2014 report published by the Center for American Progress, “among Asian Americans, Southeast Asian refugee populations tend to have the lowest levels of educational attainment, while national origin groups with a high proportion of employment-based visas tend to have the highest levels of educational attainment.” As we see in Figure 2, Hmong (33 percent), Cambodian (28 percent), Laotian (28 percent), Burmese (24 percent) and Bhutanese (15 percent) populations all have attainment rates below the national average. Taiwanese and Asian Indian populations, on the other hand, top the list at 88 and 82 percent respectively.

The Southeast Asian Research Action Center (SEARAC) has identified the major barriers and challenges that Southeast Asian American students face as “language barriers, insufficient support for parent engagement, gaps in mental health treatment, race-based bullying and harassment, and socio-economic barriers that prevent students from accessing and completing higher education.”

SEARAC’s education policy work pushes for better data on Southeast Asian American (SEAA) student needs and outcomes. Their key online resources include information and policy recommendations on data disaggregation, educational challenges faced by SEAA students, and increased access to higher education for SEAAs.

SEARAC advocates for data disaggregation as a means to address the academic achievement gaps that exist within Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities. Read their data policy brief here.

The work of closing educational attainment gaps is only growing in importance as income inequality rises within U.S. racial/ethnic groups, with income inequality now greatest among Asian Americans. According to a 2018 report by Pew Research, “in 2016, the latest year for which data are available, Asians near the top of their income distribution (the 90th percentile) had incomes 10.7 times greater than the incomes of Asians near the bottom of their income distribution (the 10th percentile). The 90/10 ratio among Asians was notably greater than among blacks (9.8), whites (7.8) and Hispanics (7.8).” Furthermore, income inequality among Asian Americans nearly doubled between 1970 and 2016.

AAPIs are the two fastest growing populations in the United States, and college enrollment of AAPIs was projected to increase to 1.4 million students by 2020—nearly twice the amount of AAPI students enrolled in college in 1995. This AAPI Heritage Month, we encourage you to join us in learning more about AAPIs, beginning with the resources shared throughout this piece, and in identifying ways we can better serve our AAPI Comebackers together.

For AAPI Heritage Month events and programming visit:
Figure 1: Attainment of Associates Degree or Higher by Race/Ethnicity
Figure 2: Associate Degrees and Higher by Asian Subpopulations
Network News
ProjectAttain! Launches Website and Newsletter
ProjectAttain!, one of the newest members of the Graduate! Network, launched their website and monthly newsletter in April.

Learn more about ProjectAttain's story in the excerpt from their website below and in the Comebacker Spotlight from their newsletter, also below.
ProjectAttain! began in 2018 as a bold idea that mobilized area leaders to shed light on an often-overlooked population: working-age adults with some college, but no degree. Through collective action with a focus on equity, ProjectAttain! quickly expanded to address attainment for all working-age adults returning to complete a formal educational credential at the diploma, certificate, or degree level.

With support from leaders and community members, ProjectAttain! grew to be a dynamic initiative bringing together organizations, talent, and seed funding and serving as a catalyst for social mobility and economic growth.

In 2020, ProjectAttain! became a 501c3 nonprofit organization with an impressive board, vital anchor institutional partnerships, and a clear mission.

Our “why” at ProjectAttain! is to help “comebackers” finish what they started. Educational attainment eliminates shame, changes career trajectories, improves the quality of life for individuals, and helps hundreds of local businesses unlock the talent they need to compete in the 21st century.

We intentionally serve individuals and communities across our region that for too long have not had the access or the support they need to complete their education. The leadership team behind ProjectAttain! continually works to deepen the commitment and actions needed for true equity and inclusion.
Comebacker Spotlight
June Watson-Sherman,
ProjectAttain! Community Volunteer


After more than 35 years in the workforce, June Watson-Sherman went back to college to finish her associate degree.
As a full time working parent of two children, she had set aside her college dreams and concentrated on professional development. “I love learning new things and whenever there were new classes or training, I was there,” said Watson-Sherman.
She spent hundreds of hours in professional development and earned certificates in human resources and Lean Six Sigma Green Belt from the Sacramento State College of Continuing Education. As her years of experience grew, she moved up the ranks into management, overseeing day-to-day operations and human resources for several companies.
She described her return to Sierra College to finish her degree as both for herself and something to tell her grandson one day. “I’ve always wanted to finish what I started,” said Watson-Sherman, who’s not only an adult learner, but was also one of ProjectAttain!’s first community volunteers.
“There are probably a lot of older adults who left college and would like to finish their education, if only they knew where to start and had the support,” she said, “because learning never stops.”
This story was originally published by Access Magazine.
Upcoming Events of Interest 

Thursday, May 13 | 5:00 p.m. PDT
"White Supremacy Culture Characteristics"
"We are all swimming in the waters of white supremacy culture. And we are not all affected in the same way.... The good news is that while white supremacy culture informs us, it does not define us.... It is a construct, and anything constructed can be deconstructed and replaced."  – Tema Okun

20 years ago, inspired by and collaborating with dozens of movement leaders, Tema Okun wrote the article "White Supremacy Culture Characteristics." Join Tema, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) and special guests from around the country to launch the new "white supremacy characteristics" website and share what we've been learning ​about white supremacy culture in these last two decades.

We'll hear from Scot Nakagawa from Change Lab, NC Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green, Skill in Action's Michelle Johnson, Vivette Jeffries-Logan of Biwa Consulting, Kari Points from Finding Freedom, SURJ's Misha Heij-Mariano, and Cristina Rivera Chapman and Justin Robinson from Earthseed Land Collective.

Join us for a night of discussion, sharing, music, and more to deepen our understanding of white supremacy culture and commit to the work of dismantling it.

ASL and live captioning provided.
Register Now

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