Sunday, October 15, 2006

Pacific Islander Exclusion from Underrepresented Minority ("URM") Programs

To do their part in addressing the higher education gap, universities, foundations, and the government have set up academic programs specifically for underrepresented minorities (also known as "URM" academic programs as in "underrepresented minority" academic programs.)

While URM academic programs make up a small fraction of the total number of U.S. academic programs, they are an important source of financial aid for underrepresented minorities. While these URM academic programs are making a difference for African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives, many of them do not include Pacific Islanders in their definition of "underrepresented," which can be the deciding factor in whether a student can even apply.

Why are Pacific Islanders excluded from some of these programs, when the data clearly shows that they're underrepresented? Perhaps because these programs, while well intentioned, are simply unaware of Pacific Islander underrepresentation. Maybe because the practice of grouping Pacific Islanders with Asians leads people to think that both groups are the same, and produces data saying that "Asian Pacific Islanders" are not underrepresented. Also, it could be due to the fact that so far, Pacific Islanders haven't come together on a national level to speak out against the exclusion of their would-be scholars from programs that should be open to them.

To learn more about the PIA project's plan to do something about this, click here.

To return to the P.I.A. project 101 page, click here.

Pacific Islander Underrepresentation in Higher Ed

Pacific Islanders are significantly underrepresented in U.S. higher education. Recent Census data indicates that Pacific Islanders are roughly half as likely than the average American to receive a bachelor's degree. They are over 60 percent less likely to earn an advanced degree. 

(This is based on U.S. Census data released in 2011.  As information changes, we will provide periodic updates.  For over 20-years of Census data showing Pacific Islander underrepresentation, click here: LINK)

Pacific Islanders are not the only minority group that is underrepresented in higher education. African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives are less likely than the average American to attain a college degree. The education gap between underrepresented minorities and the rest of America is a pressing problem that deserves attention. People are working to help underrepresented minorities, but many are leaving Pacific Islanders behind.

But unlike these other underrepresented minority groups, Pacific Islanders are exlcuded from many academic programs for underrepresented minorities. To learn more about how some underrepresented minority (URM) academic programs are leaving Pacific Islanders behind, click here.

To return to the P.I.A. project 101 page, click here.

About Pacific Islanders

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders (we'll simply use the term "Pacific Islanders") trace all or some of their ancestry to the first people of the Pacific Islands (Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia). The Pacific Islands are spread across the world's largest ocean, and number well into the tens of thousands. While the federal government previously grouped Pacific Islanders with Asians for statistical purposes, since 1997 federal racial classification guidelines recognize Pacific Islanders as a distinct racial group. (Click on this link for a descripton of all of the islanders that fall within the category (Table 4, page 9).)

Pacific Islander Americans have a smaller population than many U.S. minorities, but they live in every state of the union, and have a long history in this country. In fact, America's Pacific Islander population is the second largest in the world. This has a lot to do with the fact that most Pacific Islanders who live in the U.S. are indigenous to land that is now American soil. In fact, other than American Indians and Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders are the only major racial group that includes populations that are indigenous to the United States.

Hawaii, the 50th state, is one of many Pacific Island archipelagos. The U.S. Pacific Island territories include Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Micronesia was under U.S. authority as it moved towards independence following World War II.

Pacific Islander Americans contribute to their country, and to their own communities. And like other U.S. minorities, they face challenges and difficulties as well. One area of serious concern is higher education, where Pacific Islanders are significantly underrepresented in higher education.

To learn more about Pacific Islander underrepresentation, click here.

To return to the P.I.A. project 101 page, click here.