FILE - In this Sept. 9, 2015 file photo, students arrive for the first day of school at Stuyvesant High School in New York. A…
FILE - Students arrive for the first day of school at Stuyvesant High School in New York, Sept. 9, 2015.

A new study concludes that Asian American students do not face negative consequences in college when rejected from their first-choice colleges and universities.

The study — published in Educational Researcher, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Educational Research Association — was conducted in response to claims by two groups representing Asian American students that say admissions rejection leads some of their members to suffer diminished interest and participation at school. 

"It is what students do in college, rather than the level of institutional prestige alone, that most determines educational outcomes," said study coauthor Mike Hoa Nguyen, an assistant professor of higher education at the University of Denver.

The two groups, the Coalition of Asian American Associations (CAAA) and the Asian American Coalition for Education (AACE), say that U.S. colleges and universities, specifically prestigious schools like Harvard and Yale universities, discriminate against Asian American applicants.

The CAAA and AACE assert that those students spend less time on leadership, public service and co-curricular activities; are less satisfied with their academic institutions; hold a negative attitude toward academics and lower academic achievement; lack self-confidence and assertiveness; and have negative racial interactions.

In 2018, these assertions became part of a U.S. Department of Justice probe of affirmative action admissions processes at Harvard and Yale.

FILE - Students walk on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles, Feb. 26, 2015.

'Small differences'

Seven researchers at the University of Denver and the University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) looked at student outcomes of Asian American college students based on their admissions and enrollment decisions.

Researchers analyzed data from two national surveys of 1,023 students who identified as Asian American: the 2012 Freshman Survey and 2016 College Senior Survey, both administered by the Higher Education Research Institute at UCLA.

The researchers assessed 27 student outcome measures spread across six general categories: academic performance and perception of academic abilities; satisfaction with college; self-confidence and self-esteem; level of student involvement; willingness and ability to contribute to society; and diversity of racial interactions.

"We found that only small differences, if any, exist between the self-reported outcomes of Asian American students who were admitted to and attending their first-choice university and those students who were not," said Nguyen.

FILE - Future graduates wait for the procession to begin for commencement at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., May 24, 2010.

Legal opinions

The U.S. Justice Department on August 13 said Yale University “illegally discriminated against Asian American and white applicants in its undergraduate admissions process." 

“The findings are the result of a two-year investigation in response to a complaint by Asian American groups concerning Yale’s conduct,” the department announced.

Its investigation into Harvard University continues.

In October 2019, a federal judge ruled that Harvard had not discriminated against Asian and Asian American applicants.

FILE - Students walk near the Widener Library in Harvard Yard at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., Aug. 13, 2019.

"Overall, our findings countered the claims made by the two groups that served as the impetus of the Justice Department's investigation," Nguyen said.

Nguyen's coauthors include Connie Y. Chang, Victoria Kim, Rose Ann E. Gutierrez, Annie Le and Robert T. Teranishi at UCLA, and University of Denver scholar Denis Dumas.

"It is important to note that college choice and admission outcomes are not the only factor contributing to students' college satisfaction," Nguyen said. "Prior research indicates that feeling welcome and valued, instructional effectiveness, racial identity, and faculty and student interactions all impact college satisfaction."

In the "willingness and ability to contribute to society" and the "self-confidence and self-esteem" categories, across seven indicators, the groups showed no differences, according to the study research.