AANHPI in Higher Education: Facts and Statistics

Roughly 54% of Asian Americans held a bachelor's degree or higher in 2019, but this figure varies widely between origin groups. Over half of Burmese (65%) and Laotians (56%) had a high school diploma or less.
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Data Summary

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    Roughly 54% of Asians and Asian Americans ages 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher in 2019, however, this figure varies widely by origin group.[1]
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    Over half of Laotians (56%), Cambodians (55%), Burmese (65%), and Bhutanese (75%) in the U.S. had a high school level of education or less.Note Reference [1]
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    3 in 4 Indians in the U.S. had a bachelor's degree or higher.[2]
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    The majority of Indian degree holders had a postgraduate degree.Note Reference [2]
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    While the median household income was $85,800 among all Asians in 2019, only two Asian origin groups made above that amount (Indians and Filipinos).Note Reference [1]
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    Immediate college enrollment for Asian students was 82%, a rate much higher than those for white students (69%), Hispanic and Latino/a students (64%), and Black students (57%).[3]
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    Roughly 93% of Asian college students were first- or second-generation immigrants as of 2007-2008.[4]

When people think of Asian Americans, they may think of straight-A students and high-earning graduates. As a single demographic, Asian Americans appear to be doing well — high educational attainment, high household incomes — but a closer look by origin group paints a more complicated picture of how some Asian Americans are really doing.

This report covers Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (AANHPI) statistics in higher education, including college demographics and educational attainment rates.

Asian Student Demographics

According to the Pew Research Center, Asian Americans made up about 7% of the U.S. population as of 2021.Note Reference [1] The percentage of Asian students in postsecondary institutions reflected a similar figure: Asian Americans made up nearly 6% of undergraduates and 6% of graduates in 2022, as reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center.[5]

AANHPI Undergraduate Student Enrollment

  • In 2022, women made up 53% of the Asian undergraduate population and men made up 47%.Note Reference [5]
  • The gender breakdown among Asian students was more even than among all undergraduate students, of which 58% were women and 42% were men.Note Reference [5]
  • Over half (51.5%) of undergraduate Asian students enrolled in public, four-year institutions.
  • Asian undergraduates made up roughly 7% of public, four-year institutions, a higher percentage than at any other institution type.Note Reference [5]
  • The lowest percentage of Asian undergraduates went to private, for-profit, four-year schools, of which Asian students made up just 3% of the overall population.

From 2017-2022, there was an overall decline of 11.5% in total fall enrollment — or a decrease of nearly 2 million students.Note Reference [5]

  • Asian student enrollment, however, went down by only 3% — a decrease of fewer than 30,000 students.
  • This was in contrast to the large decreases in Black student enrollment (minus 18%), white enrollment (minus 22%), and Native American enrollment (minus 23%).

Did You Know…

Six Asian origin groups make up 85% of all Asian Americans: Chinese (24%), Indian (21%), Filipino (19%), Vietnamese (10%), Korean (9%), Japanese (7%), and other (15%).Note Reference [1]

Around 21 distinct racial/ethnic groups constitute the Asian diaspora in the U.S. who speak 59 languages other than English.[6] This makes it a difficult group to merge into a single racial/ethnic category.

AANHPI Graduate Student Enrollment

The rate of enrollment increased by just over 5% for all graduate students from 2017-2022.

  • The rate of enrollment for Asian graduate students, however, grew significantly, jumping nearly 41% from 2017-2022.Note Reference [5]
  • Public, four-year graduate school enrollment for Asian graduate students increased the most: over 47% in the past five years.Note Reference [5]
  • This may in part be due to the growth in the country's Asian populations, which increased by nearly 30% from 2010-2020.[7]

Immediate College Enrollment

In 2019, roughly 66% of high school graduates — or 2.1 million out of 3.2 million students — enrolled in college in the fall.Note Reference [3]

  • Immediate college enrollment for Asian students was 82%, a rate relatively consistent since 2010.
  • It was higher than the rates of enrollment for white students (69%), Hispanic and Latino/a students (64%), and Black students (57%).

First-Generation AANHPI Students

Roughly 93% of Asian students are first-generation or second-generation Americans.Note Reference [4]

  • Out of Asian undergraduates from 2007-2008, 55% were immigrants themselves, 38% were second-generation Americans, and 7% were third-or-higher-generation Americans.
  • In 2007-2008, Asian students accounted for 30% of immigrant undergraduates — the largest out of any racial/ethnic group.

In 2015-2016, Asian students made up 6% of first-generation college students.[8]

Asian Faculty Demographics

For fall 2018, Asians/Pacific Islanders made up 12% of all full-time faculty in degree-granting postsecondary institutions: 7% were Asian/Pacific Islander men and 5% were Asian/Pacific Islander women.Note Reference [3]

Asian/Asian American Educational Attainment

Overall, about 54% of Asians and Asian Americans ages 25 and older had a bachelor's degree or higher as of 2019.Note Reference [1] This figure holds true for both U.S.-born (55%) and internationally born Asians/Asian Americans (54%). In contrast, only 33% of the total U.S. population older than 25 had a bachelor's degree or higher.

Educational attainment, however, varies widely between origin groups.

Over half of Laotians (56%), Cambodians (55%), Burmese (65%), and Bhutanese (75%) had a high school level of education or less in 2019.Note Reference [2] Among the overall U.S. population, only 39% had a high school diploma or less.[10]

In contrast, a higher percentage of Indians had postgraduate degrees than just bachelor's (43% vs. 32%).Note Reference [2] This may be influenced by the fact that over half of all H-1B visas (for high-skilled foreign workers) are given to Indian nationals (50.5%).[11]

U.S. Educational Attainment by Asian Origin Group, 2000-2019
Origin Group High School or Less Some College Bachelor's or Higher
All Asians 27% 19% 54%
All Americans 39% 29% 33%
Indian 15% 10% 75%
Malaysian 21% 14% 65%
Mongolian 18% 22% 60%
Sri Lankan 20% 20% 60%
Korean 23% 20% 57%
Chinese 29% 14% 57%
Pakistani 26% 17% 57%
Indonesians 25% 23% 53%
Japanese 21% 27% 52%
Bangladeshis 35% 16% 49%
Filipino 22% 30% 48%
Thai 34% 21% 45%
Nepalese 42% 13% 44%
Vietnamese 45% 23% 32%
Cambodians 55% 24% 21%
Hmong 46% 31% 23%
Burmese 65% 12% 23%
Laotians 56% 27% 18%
Bhutanese 75% 10% 15%
Source: Pew Research CenterNote Reference [11]

According to Pew data from 2017-2019, disparities in educational attainment corresponded with disparities in median household income. While the median household income was $85,800 among all Asians, only two Asian origin groups made above that amount (Indians and Filipinos).Note Reference [11]

Which Colleges Have the Most Asian Students?

Most colleges with large Asian/Asian American student populations are located in California, which is the state with the highest Asian American population. As of 2019, around 30% of the U.S. Asian population lived in California, roughly 6.7 million people.Note Reference [11]

Colleges With Large Asian/Asian American Student Populations
School Percentage of Asian/Asian American Students Percentage of Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Students
California Institute of Technology 44.1% 1.9%
University of California, San Diego 37.9% <1%
University of California, Riverside 36.7% <1%
University of Hawai'i, Manoa 33% 17.7%
University of California, Los Angeles 33% N/A
University of California, San Francisco 32.4% <1%
University of California, Berkeley 30.6% <1%
Princeton University 28% <1%
Rutgers University 26.9% N/A
University of California, Davis 25.2% <1%
Note: The University of California, Los Angeles, reported its Asian and Pacific Islander populations as one percentage.

Within the University of California system, the University of California, Irvine, was the top choice for in-state Asian American first-year and transfer students. The school received the most applications from Asian/Asian American prospective first-year students with nearly 40,000 submissions.