The Moderating Effects of Race/ethnicity on the Experience of Asian American and Pacific Islander Community College Students

Article excerpt

Introduction

The decline in state appropriations for higher education, changes in the demographic profile of students, rising societal needs and expectations, and mounting public concern for accountability in higher education are pressing colleges and universities to demonstrate their effectiveness and efficiency. All stakeholders, including policy makers, administrators, college students, and their parents, strive to ensure institutions of higher education demonstrate academic effectiveness by measuring institutional performance outcomes. Since 1990, a large number of states have adopted performance indicator systems ranging from quantitative indicators such as total degrees awarded and enrollment/retention/graduation data to more qualitative data such as indicators of remedial effectiveness (Ruppert 1995). In addition to these measures, student satisfaction is an important educational outcome and common performance measure used in institutions of higher education to inform policy makers and accreditation agencies about their institutional effectiveness (Beltyukova and Fox 2002), to plan financial budgeting, and to improve student programs and services (CCC 1989, 1990; Laanan 2001). Student educational satisfaction is considered a pivotal mediating concept that links with a positive association to other student outcomes, such as performance, attainment, retention, and growth of students (Astin 1993; Pascarella and Terenzini 1991; Tinto 1975). Furthermore, student satisfaction is touted as an outcome of good institutional practice and resource investment in efforts associated with learning quality. From the academic institutions' point of view, student satisfaction, unlike students' performance indicators, is an appropriate outcome to study because institutions have a greater role to intervene in students' experience. It is in the institutions' best interest to have satisfied students because they are likely to succeed academically and subsequently after college (Pascarella and Terenzini 1991). Furthermore, satisfied students recommend prospective students to attend the same institution (Eimers and Pike 1997). In addition, the amount of financial support from alumni is positively related to the level of educational satisfaction students have toward their alma mater (Monks 2003). Student satisfaction is thus deemed so important that Alexander Astin (1993, 173), a pioneer in college student research, stated boldly, "It is difficult to argue that student satisfaction can be legitimately subordinated to any other educational outcome."

Research Background

Research on students' satisfaction has mostly been conducted at four-year institutions, such as predominantly White institutions (PWIs) and historically Black institutions, where a racial majority group of students exists. These studies have generally compared measures of students' experiences, such as satisfaction, according to racial majority versus minority, which in most cases is White versus African American. However, the results are mixed and inconclusive, depending on how and where the research was conducted. Many studies, however, agree that students are more comfortable and satisfied with their college experiences when they represent the racial majority on campus (Allen 1988; Bohr et al. 1995; Fisher and Hartmann 1991; Love 1993; Nettles, Thoeny, and Gosman 1986; Suen 1983).

Despite a growing body of research on racial/ethnic minority students' satisfaction, research findings remain limited for two reasons. First, research on racial/ethnic minorities is usually conducted at PWIs, where there are a limited number of ethnic minority students. This research does not, therefore, include students who attend minority-serving institutions, where the student body is structurally diverse and thus there is no "majority," and whose institutional mission is to serve the educational needs of minority students (DOT).

Asian American and Pacific Islander institutions (AAPIs) are a specific type of a minority-serving institution whose student body consists of 10 percent or more Asian American and Pacific Islander students (Laanan and Starobin 2004). …