Degree Date


Document Type

Dissertation - Public Access

Degree Name

Ed.D. Doctor of Education

Academic Discipline

Community College Leadership

First Advisor

Dennis Haynes, PhD

Second Advisor

Judah Viola, PhD

Third Advisor

Jaleh Sherbini, EdD


This study aimed to investigate the relationship of Southeast Asian American student involvement and persistence in urban community colleges of Illinois. There are large gaps in research regarding the academic struggles of Southeast Asian American students because most data concerning Asian Americans is aggregate, consolidating all experiences rather than considering each sub-group independently. The existing data revealed that Asian Americans are performing exceptionally well in academics, especially when compared to other minority groups, such as African American and Latinos, resulting in Asian Americans being stereotyped as the “model minority” (CARE, 2008). However, a closer assessment of the data shows that only a portion of the Asian American population are performing well academically and is skewing the data for other sub-groups (Le, 2008). A large number of Eastern and Southern Asian students are graduating and obtaining the higher education degrees in higher numbers, whereas, an overwhelming number of the Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander students face many hurdles in their academic pursuits (CARE, 2008). There are many reasons as to why Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander American students may encounter more difficulties in school compared to their Eastern and Southern Asian American counterparts including: recent immigrant or refugee status, low English proficiency, low socioeconomic status and parents’ lack of formal education from native country and/or lack of familiarity with U.S. school system (Uy, 2001).

Therefore, many educational leaders fail to realize that the Asian American population is comprised of several different ethnicities with characteristics and struggles unique to their particular group (CARE, 2008). There has been a surge in Southeast Asian American students in the community colleges due largely to community college’s open access policy and affordable tuition, especially in the Midwest and Southern states (CARE, 2008). Although, many community college leaders are not aware that this particular group of students also have many of the same academic struggles as other groups. A qualitative case study was employed to obtain data. The qualitative research strategy yielded a well-rounded understanding of the subject. This study shed light on the academic obstacles Southeast Asian American students face in Illinois community colleges so that more policies may be implemented to meet the needs of this under-represented group.