New Report on HMoob American University Students at Wisconsin’s 4-Year Colleges

Hmoob American Undergraduate Students at University of Wisconsin’s 4-Year Comprehensive Colleges – Background, Enrollment Statistics, and Graduation Trends

Author: MaiNeng Vang

Data on Asian Americans are often aggregated, wherein all Asian American communities are lumped together under the category “Asian.” Aggregated data do not provide an accurate understanding of the experiences of various Asian American groups. In this way, it renders invisible the needs of and challenges within marginalized Asian American groups, such as Southeast Asians. Often, resources are allocated based on statistical data, therefore, the lack of disaggregated data denies certain Asian American groups access to the resources that can help them live, thrive, and succeed in this country.

Through the HMoob American College Paj Ntaub project last year, the research team found that HMoob American students at UW—Madison experience institutional invisibility through various institutional processes, including the way that disaggregated data on HMoob American students have not been analyzed and/or reported even though the university has been offering “Hmong” as a racial/ethnic category on undergraduate applications since 2006. Since the research team was able to obtain raw disaggregated data about HMoob American students at UW—Madison, the team wondered what this data would look like across the UW System, and whether there was disaggregated data on HMoob American students. Bailey Smolarek, one of the research mentors from the Paj Ntaub team, reached out to the University of Wisconsin System Office of Policy Analysis and Research for disaggregated data on HMoob American students. Members of the Paj Ntaub research team synthesized the data and put together a report to help provide a basic overview of the state of HMoob American students in the UW System Universities. To our knowledge, this is the first time that the disaggregated HMoob student data has been publically reported. We hope the information in this report can be used by scholars, advocates, community members, and educators in their efforts to eliminating educational inequalities that exist for HMoob Americans in Wisconsin.

A notable finding from this data is that in general, the enrollment of HMoob American undergraduate students has declined across the UW System Universities from 2009 to 2018. Moreover, the top four universities in UW system to serve HMoob American undergraduate students from 2008-2018 are: UW-Milwaukee (6,494 students), UW-Madison (3,132 students), UW-Oshkosh (2,700 students), and UW-Eau Claire (2,265 students). With regards to the demographics of HMoob American students in the UW System, the data shows that the majority of HMoob American undergraduates are from Wisconsin, have high financial need, and are the first in their families to go to college. While the disaggregated numerical data on HMoob American students in the UW System reveal some of the educational characteristics and struggles of HMoob American students, these findings raise serious and pressing questions about how 4-year public universities within the UW System can better serve HMoob American students. In order to better understand, identify, and address the factors that are impacting HMoob American students’ higher education experiences, the Paj Ntaub research team proposes that there is a need for more qualitative research to document the experiences of HMoob American students in the state. The Paj Ntaub research team will continue a second year of community-based participatory action research to further investigate the social and institutional factors that influence the campus inclusion, educational success, and post-college transitions of HMoob American undergraduate students at UW-Madison. We plan to interview current HMoob American students as well as alumni, students who transferred or left UW, and UW staff who work with HMoob American undergraduates.