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The Student Equity Planning work of the past several years and the Chancellor’s Vision for Success has resulted in a system-wide focus on closing equity gaps. Historical MIS data sets, however, do not include all ethnic groups that are relevant for the diverse and distinct communities served by the 115 California community colleges. For example, State Center College has a sizable Hmong[1] population in its service area. However, their ability to conduct research, identify equity gaps, and direct resources in ways that will effectively close those gaps has been impeded because “Hmong” is not an ethnicity category that is collected on the standard application, so these students traditionally self-identify simply as “Asian” in absence of other options. The inability to disaggregate this group is problematic, as educational attainment rates in Hmong American communities are extremely low: only 14% have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher.[2] This rate contrasts sharply with the 49% bachelor’s degree attainment rate of all Asian Americans, when construed as a broader group.


Table 1. Comparison of level of detail in current and proposed ethnicity collection

Broad Group

Current Number of Groups

Proposed Number of Groups

African American or Black



American Indian or Alaska Native



Asian (including Filipino)



Hispanic or Latino



Middle Eastern or North African



Pacific Islander









The majority of the expanded categories are subgroups that fall under the broad “American Indian or Alaska Native” group. Of the 194 proposed subgroups, 76 are non-Native American subgroups while the Native American category comprises 118 subgroups. There are several reasons for this. First, the criteria threshold for included subgroups to have a population of 10,000 in the state of California did not work well for Native Americans. This is in part because information on the populations sizes of most Native American tribes is not generally available. Additionally, Native American populations in California are often highly localized, making some groups particularly relevant in certain service areas, although their overall statewide numbers may be low. Also, Native Americans generally tend to have the largest equity gaps and are therefore any information that would allow for more effective equity planning and services would be very helpful.[3] Finally, the decision to expand collection of Native American subgroup information was essentially a binary one: either include all California-recognized tribal groups or none of them. Therefore, the expansion includes all California tribal groups as well as several of the largest nationally recognized Indian nations (e.g., Cherokee, Sioux). Even though this adds a large number of groups to the proposal, only those applicants who select the broader category of “American Indian” would see that larger list.


Craig Hayward & Stacy Teeters

[1] The Hmong are a people living traditionally in isolated mountain villages throughout Southeast Asia. Large numbers have immigrated to the US.

[2] Center for American Progress. (2015). Who are Asian Americans? Retrieved from

[3] The Education Trust. (2013, August 13). The state of education for Native students. Retrieved from