Stephen Nair
Staff Writer

Since the Great California Gold Rush and the passage of the 1965 Immigration and Nationality Act, the Asian-American community has transformed into a highly-viable economic sector. Demographics from the U.S. Census show their numbers have significantly increased, bringing the total to approximately 5 percent of the population as of May 2005. Yet, college enrollment among Asians is confined to certain schools and sections of the country.
The University of Tennessee’s enrollment of Asians for the academic year 2006-2007 is approximately 2.54 percent of the total student population of 26,476. The university enrolled 117 Asian freshmen this year, bringing the total enrolled to 575 undergraduate students and 98 graduate and professional students, said Lynn Zorn of the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.
In comparison, Vanderbilt University in Nashville had a 6 percent Asian student population.
“Demographics, I think, is the main reason Asians don’t come to schools like Tennessee. There is very little cultural support in a state like Tennessee as most Asians reside on the West Coast and the northeastern states. Major cities with high Asian population and the nation’s top schools are where these students are headed,” said Tomoya Shimura, an Asian graduate student in sports management.
Statistics from The New York Times show that more than half of Asian college students attend schools on the West coast. Colleges in northeastern states like Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have larger numbers of Asians.
“The University of Tennessee’s primary focus in recruitment is the southeastern part of the United States,” Richard Bayer, dean of enrollment services, said. “Unlike universities like Vanderbilt, UT does not pursue an aggressive recruitment program for Asian students (like) states on the West Coast and the northeast.”
“Most Asian students, whether resident or otherwise, prefer to attend schools where there are large Asian populations. Elite colleges have recruiting firms that bring greater numbers of students to enroll,” Patrick Yang, a Ph.D. student in education from China, said. “I personally chose to apply and finish my doctoral program at the University of Tennessee. I do like it here.”
Affirmative action, when first implemented in the early 1970s, gave Asians an immense advantage. They achieved great successes in education, which has led to greater employment and a marked increase in real income. With the increase in Asian student enrollment, certain universities began to reject Asian students, although they were clearly qualified for admission. Accusations were levied on universities such as University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, Stanford, Harvard, Princeton and Brown for illegal admissions tampering, according to, a Web site that provides demographics on Asian American issues.
Many private universities use “legacy clauses,” in which the children of their alumni are almost always admitted, many of whom would not have been admitted otherwise. Research reveals the use of legacy admissions was another reason for low admission rates for Asian students, the Web site says.
Asian-American student Dustin Lee said there are very few Asians in Tennessee.
“The university, in spite of trying to diversify, finds it very hard to attract Asian students to this part of the country. The cultural and ethnic support is just not there,” Lee, a freshman in chemistry, said.
Asians account for 10 percent to 41 percent of students at many of the nation’s elite colleges, such as 16 percent at Cornell, 24 percent at Carnegie Mellon, 18 percent at Harvard and 41 percent at Berkeley, according to The New York Times.
Asian students make up 57 percent of the 600,000 foreigners who study in this country. Statistics from the Census show that almost 45 percent of all Asian Americans at least 25 years of age have an undergraduate degree or higher.
“Though Asians comprise more then 50 percent of foreign students, most of these students are enrolled in universities with large Asian communities,” Peng Du, graduate student in computer science from China, said. “My reason for attending (UT) is because my professor teaches in this school.”