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Asian Americans in California Split on Whether College Makes Them Successful

Asian Americans in California are nearly equally divided when asked whether college is necessary to achieve success, according to a new survey from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC).

The survey, conducted between Oct. 8 – 17, polled 1,703 adults in the state and found glaring differences across racial/ethnic groups.

Among Asian Americans, 54% said college is necessary to be successful, while 45% thought otherwise.

Meanwhile, 67% of Latinos and 51% of African Americans agreed that college is necessary while only 35% of Whites shared the sentiment.

The fact that only 54% of Asian Americans responded positively surprised 17-year-old Darryl Cereno, a high school senior at San Jose’s Overfelt High School. He told the Bay Area News Group (via The Mercury News):

“Usually Asian Americans, especially here in California, are first- or second-generation and there’s this sort of cultural bias where you want to go to college to have a better life, so I’d expect that number to be way higher.”

Cereno, an Asian American himself, will apply to college this year. While scared at the prospect of debt, there’s a reason for him to pursue: Asian American families have seen spikes in their wealth in the past two decades, a trend attributed to the group’s high rate of college education.

Frank H. Wu, a professor at UC Hastings College of the Law and chair of the Committee of 100, a nonprofit organization of Chinese-Americans, said:

“Higher education has been the key to Asian immigrants achieving the American dream. It’s been both incredibly important in the Asian cultures from which they or their parents or grandparents came, and in America, one of the ways to come to the country legally was to go to school or get a job.”

In terms of income groups, the belief that college is necessary was predominantly observed in households earning $40,000 or less a year (59%), while 40% of those earning $40,000 to $80,000 and 42% earning above $80,000 shared the same opinion.

Experts believe that the skyrocketing costs of a college degree and student debt affect the increasing cynicism. The idea that students of color do not generally have access to resources that their white counterparts possess could also explain the numbers. As Audrey Dow, senior vice president of the Campaign for College Opportunity, put it, not everyone can drop out of college and become the next tech titan.

For Wu, the survey nonetheless shows that the value of attending college is being questioned:

“We’re at a turning point, a crossroads,where people are saying I want education, but I don’t want to pay this price for education.”

What do you think? Is college really necessary to be successful in life?


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