Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Looking Backward: Census Stats on Pacific Islanders

With the New Year rapidly approaching, I wanted to share some perspective on Pacific Islander American higher educational attainment over the past couple of decades. Pacific Islanders have been immigrating to what is now the continental U.S. for around 200 years (two examples are the Native Hawaiians who worked in the Pacific Northwest and the Pacific Islander Mormons who immigrated to Utah). Also, in the case of the native peoples of American Samoa, Guam, and Hawaii, Pacific Islanders have been living on U.S. soil while later became part of the United States. U.S. Census data on Pacific Islander higher educational attainment took a while to catch up, but we do have numbers going back two decades.

Here are some of the online resources dating back to the 1990 Census:

1990s: As part of the U.S. Census Bureau's "We the People" series, the Census released a 10-page document on the demographics of Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders living in the 50 states. The document was published in 1993, and based on 1990 Census data (LINK).
  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 11 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 20 percent
  • Percentage of "Asian and Pacific Islanders" with an undergraduate degree: 37 percent
2000: In 2003, the Census Bureau released a 12-page document on higher educational attainment in the U.S. It included attainment stats broken down by race and ethnicity (though multiracial individuals were counted as "two or more races" instead of being included in each racial group they reported). Here are the stats, which were based on Census 2000 data (LINK):
  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 13.8 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 24.4 percent
  • Percentage of Asians with an undergraduate degree: 44.1 percent

2010: We are still waiting on the results of the 2010 Census, but we do have data from surveys and other research that the U.S. Census Bureau did between the 2000 and the 2010 Census. Here are the higher educational attainment stats reported by the Census in March 2010 in preparation for "Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month". (Here's the LINK)

  • Percentage of Pacific Islanders with an undergraduate degree: 15 percent
  • Percentage of the U.S. population with an undergraduate degree: 28 percent
  • Percentage of Asians with an undergraduate degree: 50 percent

I'll expand on this in my next post, but that's it for now. Happy holidays!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Census Data Indicates Growing and Dispersing Pacific Islander American Population

Earlier this week, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser published a story on Hawaii's changing demographics, as depicted by the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey. (Here's that story: LINK) Among other things, it reported that while Hawaii's population increased 5.7 percent from 2000 - 2009, during that same time the Native Hawaiian population in the state decreased by 6.8 percent.

First, I want to talk about why those numbers may end up being misleading. Next, I want to talk about some other results of the American Community Survey which indicate that the Pacific Islander American population grew in number during the past decade.

The Hawaii Data: Anytime you're looking at Census data on race, make sure to check whether the results say "X" race "alone" or "alone or in combination." The difference is that "alone or in combination" stats mean that multiracial Americans are included as members of more than one of the races they identify as. Overall, multiracial individuals are not a huge percentage of the American population: we're somewhere above 2 percent. But in Hawaii, over 20 percent of the population identifies as multiracial. This means that if you want to get a detailed picture of race and ethnicity in Hawaii, you need to be able to look at "alone or in combination" stats. This is especially true for Pacific Islander Americans - in the 2000 Census multiracial Pacific Islanders greatly outnumbered those who identified as Pacific Islander alone. Unfortunately, the American Community Survey numbers that were referenced in the Star-Advertiser didn't do that.

When the richer data that includes multiracial Hawaii residents is released, it may end up indicating the same thing that the "alone" stats say... but we won't know until we see it. For now, what we do know is that in Hawaii, a segment of the Native Hawaiian population (those that identify as Native Hawaiian alone), as counted in a large government-conducted survey, declined over the past decade.

National Pacific Islander Stats: Being more curious than the average twenty-something is about Census stats, this article above encouraged me to dive into the Census Bureau's website and see what else the American Community Survey (ACS) said about the Pacific Islander American population. Here were my two major findings, comparing the American Community Survey results with the Census 2000 results:
  • From 2000 - 2009, the number of American residents who identified as Pacific Islander (aka "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander") alone grew significantly, from 398,800 to 447,500. That's a 12 percent population increase over that decade. (It will be interesting to see what the change was when the multiracial Pacific Islander population is included.)
  • From 2000 - 2009, the number of Hawaii residents who identified as Pacific Islander alone fell slightly from 113,500 to 112,900.

The takeaway is that at least in the case of individuals who identify as Pacific Islander alone, their numbers are growing noticeably across the nation, while they are slowly declining in the only Pacific Island State of the Union. (Here's a link to the Census Bureau's ACS web page: LINK)

How does this tie back into the PIA project's mission to see Pacific Islanders included in scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities?

Simple. In places like Hawaii, Pacific Islanders are a significant percentage of the total population, and it is widely known that they are underrepresented in higher education. Any Hawaii-based program for underrepresented minorities would allow Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders to apply, because those programs would be aware of our underrepresentation.

Nationally, this is not the case. Many communities are hardly aware that Pacific Islander Americans exist as a thriving, growing, and sometimes struggling community. Most of these well-intended scholarships and fellowships who want to help underrepresented minorities do not include or advertise to Pacific Islanders.

Now, as the Pacific Islander population disperses across these communities, and attends college in these communities, they will find that they are being excluded from scholarships and fellowships that they should at least be able to apply to. They will find that some underrepresented minority programs which would have included them in Hawaii are not doing so across the mainland. In some cases this could make the difference between a diploma and a dropout, or attending graduate school or not.

This is another reason why - as the Pacific Islander American population disperses in greater numbers across the mainland U.S. - it is important for underrepresented minority programs to include Pacific Islanders now.


Thursday, December 09, 2010

AP-Stanford Poll: Americans Recognize Link between Economy and Education System

The Associated Press reported today on an AP-Stanford University poll surveying the views Americans hold on several aspects of higher education. Its findings have been covered from multiple perspectives, with the AP running headlines like "Poll: education backed, but not taxes."

Here are two important results from the poll that didn't make as many (if any) headlines:
  • 88 percent of respondents said that the quality of a country's education system has a large or very large impact on its economy
  • 79 percent of respondents said that if all Americans graduated from a two or four-year college it would help the economy a lot or a little

I agree with both statements (in fact I wonder about the 21 percent of folks who don't think that having a 100 percent college graduation rate would help the economy). I would take it one step further: for the underrepresented minority groups that constitute a growing portion of the American public, if they are able to graudate at a higher rate and access a quality education, this will be good for those communities in particular and the economy as a whole.

And of course this ties back to Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders. They will be better able to access a quality education and graduate when they have access to the scholarships, fellowships, and academic programs for underrepresented minorities which don't currently recognize that they're underrepresented.

Here's the poll in full: LINK


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs urges Action on Including Pacific Islanders in Acadmic Programs for Underrepresented Minorities

More great news for those of us working to increase higher education opportunities for Pacific Islanders: Last week one of the largest and oldest national Native Hawaiian organizations unanimously passed a resolution calling on their fellow Native Hawaiian organizations to urge academic programs for underrepresented minorities to recognize that Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders are an underrepresented group. I'll include a link to the resolution when it's posted online, but for now I'm just sharing the great news.

Mahalo nui loa (thank you very much) to all of the leaders of the Association of Hawaiian Civic Clubs, for urging Native Hawaiian organizations to call for the inclusion of Pacific Islanders in underrepresented minority programs! And a special thanks to the members of the civic club that I'm a member of (the Washington, DC-based Ke Alii Makaainana civic club), especially those who attended the national convention and explained the urgent need to move forward on this issue.


Sunday, November 14, 2010

News - PIA project Officially Incorporated in DC!

The Pacific Islander Access project team is pleased to report that our nonprofit is officially incorporated in the District of Columbia! We recently received this great news from DC's Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. As you might imagine, we're excited to be taking another step forward in the effort to open more doors for Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders by ending their exclusion from scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Study Finds a Bigger Role for Financial Aid as Tuition and Fees Rise

A few days ago the New York Times, Associated Press, and other news outlets covered a recent report by the College Board on the cost of higher education. To sum it up, the study found that university tuition and fees have increased. However, at the same time, financial aid has increased slightly more than the sticker cost. (The study has a lot of great information, and you can read the whole thing by clicking here: LINK)

The study's data is recent enough to include the current economic downturn, which made it harder for many families to afford college.

Sources in the news articles and the report suggest that this boost in financial aid - due largely to recent legislation - is temporary. Whether that's true or not, the study calls attention to the important role financial aid plays in the real cost of higher education.

For Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, the real cost of college is higher than it should be, because they are not allowed to apply for many scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities. It makes sense that overrepresented racial and ethnic groups and not targeted by these financial aid sources, but Pacific Islanders are underrepresented - and they are wrongfully excluded.

We can - and I believe we will - lower the real cost of higher education for Pacific Islanders by ending their exclusion from financial aid sources for underrepresented minorities. When that happens, it might not be studied by the College Board or reported by big name news sources. But more importantly, it would have a real affect on the promising men and women who would be able to afford college and achieve their potential.


Sunday, October 17, 2010

An Endnote is Just the Begining

Those party people at the National Academies are up to it again. Shortly after the National Research Council published the report I blogged about earlier this month (LINK), the National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine released a report on the need to boost the involvement of underrepresented minorities in STEM higher education. (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.) Taking a stand that PIA project can easily get behind, the National Academies said that getting underrepresented minorities into STEM education at all levels should be understood as "an urgent national priority."

I agree.

And I have the same usual question PIA project asks when an entity wisely chooses to take steps to help underrepresented minorities. That is: "Did you remember that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education?"

When I went searching for the answer, at first this appeared to be another example of well-intentioned folks excluding Pacific Islanders. The press release said that when the Academies were talking about underrepresented minorities it included these three groups: "African Americans, Hispanic, and Native Americans." (Here's a link to that press release: LINK)

But it would be premature to blog about this report without looking at it. So I downloaded the report and skimmed it. I was pleased to find the following language within an end note at the bottom of page sixteen:
Underrepresented minorities, as used in this report, refer to African Americans, Hispanic or Latino Americans, Native Americans and Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders.

It went on to say that "Pacific Islanders are considered an underrepresented group. However, most national data sets for scientists and engineers aggregate Asians and Pacific Islanders so it is generally impossible to present separate data for this group."

While PIA project is displeased that Pacific Islanders are lumped together with Asians in so many national data sets, this is nothing new. On the other hand, it's refreshing to read that a report on underrepresented minorities acknowledges both that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented and that the practice of burying Pacific Islander data within the "Asian Pacific" category makes it harder for scholars to see what's going on with this population.

I would like to see this discussion elevated higher than an end note on the bottom of one page, but hey - it's a start.

To access the report, click here: LINK


Sunday, October 03, 2010

Good News and No News

This week the National Research Council released a huge review of America's doctoral programs. It looked at over 5,000 PhD programs at more than 210 universities across the nation. The study pulled from 2005-2006 data (it's last review was released in 1995, based on data collected from 1993), and looked at various trends in doctoral education, including diversity issues like minority representation among faculty and students.

Because of the PIA project's focus, I read this report and looked at two things in particular: 1.) what does this report say about underrepresented minorities, and 2.) specifically, what does it say about Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders?

Here are my answers:

1.) Based on its findings, the National Research Council found that for every academic field it reviewed, there has been an increase in the percentage of PhDs who are what it considers to be underrepresented minorities. To quote the study:

For all doctoral programs in fields covered by the study, there has been an increase in the percentage of PhDs from underrepresented minority groups (a growth of 2.3 percentage points to 9.6 percent in the agricultural sciences, 3.7 percentage points to 9.8 percent in biological sciences, 1.7 percentage points to 6.4 percent in the physical sciences, 5.2 percentage points to 10.1 percent in engineering, 5.0 percentage points to 14.4 percent in the social sciences and 3.5 percentage points to 10.9 percent in the humanities).

For the minorities included in the National Research Council's definition of underrepresented, that's good news.

2.) The answer to the second question ("What does it say about Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders?") is short: it doesn't talk about Pacific Islanders. Instead, the study defined "underrepresented minority" to include only African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian and Alaska Natives. Pacific Islanders were not included, and no space in the free online copy of the report explained why. For Pacific Islander's, that's no news.

This leaves us with another instance where we know a little more about other underrepresented minorities, and see another example of how Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islander are left out of the discussion on how underrepresented minorities are doing and how they can do better.

The full report (which has a ton of great information in other areas) is available here: LINK

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Diplomas and Dollars: the Value of a Degree

As the U.S. unemployment rate remains unusually high, struggling college graduates and others are questioning whether higher education is still a sound investment. Early this month, one MSNBC blog (LINK) mentions books with not-too subtle titles like "Higher Education? How Colleges are Wasting Our Money and Failing Our Kids - and What We Can Do About It" and cites a Wall Street Journal article on how Americans now owe more in student loans than they do in credit card debt (more on that here: LINK).

In an economic climate like this, it's understandable for Americans to question any big-ticket expense, especially one with a price tag as high as most university diplomas. Still, it's important to note the strong evidence that the value of higher education has increased during the Great Recession. Last week, the New York Times reported in "Degree Payoff is Growing, Study Says," that the long-term payoff for higher education - including higher income, better job security, and greater civic engagement - continues to rise.

That story is available here: LINK

The College Board report they mentioned found that college graduates were better off regardless of racial or ethnic background. I dove into the report hoping for stats specific to Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, but unfortunately, found that we were overlooked in this study. Click here to access the full report: LINK

I trust that what's true for every racial and ethic group studied is also true for Pacific Islanders - that higher education is still an important investment that drives up income, employment, and access to the American dream. And it's a given that by allowing Pacific Islanders to apply for underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships, more of us would have the financial means needed to do what it takes to make that dream a reality.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Noticed or Not? University Definitions of Underrepresented

In previous posts I've mentioned that when it comes to acknowledging that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education, some get it and some don't. News articles and blog posts (courtesy of Google alerts - thanks Google!) from the past few weeks provide examples of a university that gets it and another that doesn't appear to.

First, the university paying attention to the statistics - Cornell - includes Pacific Islanders in their definition of underrepresented minorities (LINK). Go Big Red!

On the other hand, at least one university doesn't seem to pay attention to the fact that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented - according to this article (LINK) another university's (no need to mention it by name but you can check the link if you're curious) understanding of underrepresented minorities "is interpreted to include African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans." No mention of Pacific Islander Americans.

Hopefully more universities, scholarships, and fellowships will move in the same direction as Cornell. The PIA project will be doing more to help them get there.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Summer Reading: UCLA Paper on Pacific Islanders in Higher Education

For those of you who looking for an in-depth analysis of the underrepresentation of Pacific Islanders in U.S. higher education, I recommend this joint brief from the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, UC AAPI Policy Initiative, and the Asian Pacific American Legal Center: LINK

The paper is a few years old, but the authors do a great job explaining the details of Pacific Islander education issues with a mix of writing and graphs. On the concluding page, the authors quote a source that says:

Despite having significant needs, Pacific Islanders are often ignored in policy discussions. Policy makers, community organizations, funders, and others working to address educational disparities need to take affirmative steps to ensure Pacific Islanders have equal access to educational opportunity.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Recently Released Census Data on Pacific Islander Americans

Earlier this month, the U.S. Census published fresh data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans. You can check out the whole thing for yourself, but here are a few things that jumped out for me:

  • 4-Year-College Graduation Rates: Pacific Islanders remain vastly less likely to receive a college diploma. Statistics did not change from the previous year, when 15 percent of Pacific Islanders earned bachelor's degrees, compared to 28 percent of the total U.S. population. That leaves Pacific Islander roughly 46 percent less likely to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
  • Advanced Degrees: The good news here is that the percentage of Pacific Islanders earning advanced degrees has increased from 4 percent to 5 percent of the Pacific Islander population. The bad news - Pacific Islanders are still only half-as-likely to receive an advanced degree as the general U.S. population, leaving them vastly underrepresented in higher education at the graduate level.
  • U.S. Population: Estimates for the total population of Pacific Islanders in the 50 States grew from 1 million last year to 1.1 million. Pacific Islanders were the second-fastest growing racial group for the most recent year counted.
  • Poverty: The Census found more Pacific Islander Americans living in poverty than the last year counted - the number jumped from 15.7 percent to 16.3 percent.

*Warning on these stats: Aside from the total population count, the Census data was limited to individuals who identified only as "Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander." Individuals who identified as being of more than one race (for example, White and Native Hawaiian or Other Pacific Islander") were not included in these stats. I'd love to have those numbers as well, but for now, this is it.

Here's a link to the full release: LINK. Asians are on the top, followed by Pacific Islanders.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

When the Good Guys have Bad Infromation: Academic Programs for Underrepresented Minorities that Exclude an Underrepresented Minority

I understand that it might be possible that someone could hear about the PIA project's work to end the exclusion of Pacific Islanders from academic programs for underrepresented minorities, and end up thinking that we see these programs as an enemy. After all, these programs describe themselves as being dedicated to helping underrepresented minorities, but most of them excluded Pacific Islanders - who are underrepresented. Noting that possibility, it is important for the PIA project to be clear: academic programs for underrepresented minorities are not an enemy.

Academic Programs for Underrepresented Minorities: the Good Guys
Academic programs for underrepresented minorities serve a purpose that is important and noble: helping parts of the American community who have largely been left behind recent gains in higher education. This makes them especially valuable to the minority groups who have been less successful in education. As underrepresented minority groups - who already make up about 1/4th of the U.S. population - become a bigger part of America, closing the education gap becomes less of a minority issue and more of a national issue.

Studies show that on average, a college diploma is correlated with major benefits for the individual degree earner, her or his family, and the greater community. Community benefits include:
  • Higher earnings, which contribute to the economy and provide greater tax revenue
  • Lower likelihood to rely on public assistance such as welfare
  • Reduced chances of committing crimes, which is a safety issue and a burden on the tax payers (because of the hefty cost of incarceration)

This doesn't even touch on the individual benefits related to education, or the snowball-effect that educated parents have on improving the chances that their children will succeed in school. Closing the education gap for underrepresented minorities would lead to a stronger, safer, and more prosperous America. More than a minority-issue, this is a matter of national interest.

But who is working to make it happen? The men and women who work at and support scholarships, fellowships, and other academic programs for underrepresented minorities.

I can't show you a survey as evidence, but I am confident that most of these people do what they do because of a sincere desire to help underrepresented minorities who are trying to help themselves. And for the African American, Hispanic, and American Indian and Alaska Native students who benefit, they do make a difference.

Our Goal: Help these Academic Programs Do More

My belief is that the issue comes down to good intentions and bad information. Almost certainly without realizing it, many academic programs for underrepresented minorities have excluded Pacific Islanders. Polynesian, Micronesian, and Melanesian students look for these programs and see that when a scholarship says it is for underrepresented students, the fine print usually reads "African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian and Alaska Natives only." Possibly because of the reasons I outlined our previous post, underrepresented minority programs are excluding an underrepresented group.

The PIA project is motivated by the belief that when these academic programs are presented with the facts, they will want to change their policies. This year we will test that theory. But first, we need to lay out the evidence, share out story with other Pacific Islander groups, and reach out to prospective allies.


Monday, February 08, 2010

Why? Three Theories on why Pacific Islanders are Excluded from Academic Programs for Underrepresented Minorities

Each of the previous blogs have described the problem the PIA project is focused on - the exclusion of Pacific Islanders from academic programs for underrepresented minorities, and how this makes it harder for Pacific Islanders to end their own underrepresentation - so the problem is clear. However, it is fair to ask why this is occurring at all. Why are Pacific Islander excluded from academic programs for underrepresented minorities when they are an underrepresented minority?

Three Theories: Why Pacific Islanders are Excluded

1.) Population

Because we are a smaller population: The fact that the Pacific Islander American population is much smaller than included underrepresented minority groups could be a big factor in their exclusion. Also, while Pacific Islanders live in every State of the Union, over half of the population live in just two states: California and Hawaii. The fact that their smaller population is highly concentrated could mean that for many decision makers, Pacific Islanders are out of sight and out of mind.

2.) The Myth of "Asian Pacifics"

Because we're lumped in with Asians, who aren't underrepresented: Another possible cause is the outdated practice of lumping Pacific Islanders with Asians to form the "Asian Pacific", "Asian Pacific Islander" or "Asian and Pacific Islander" category. Because Asians and Pacific Islanders are different in many respects - especially when it comes to higher education issues - lumping the two groups together does a disservice to anyone honestly trying to understand these two distinct racial groups. Moreover, because Asians greatly outnumber Pacific Islander Americans (approximately 15 to 1), any stats on "Asian Pacifics" largely reflects Asians, not Pacific Islanders. (I'll go into detail on this in a future post.)

3.) Pacific Islander Americans: A Silent Minority

Because we haven't come together on this issue: The size and concentration of the Pacific Islander American community, along with the way Pacific Islander issues are hidden behind the "Asian Pacific" lumping, are certainly both factors in their exclusion from academic programs. After all, if these programs:
  • Don't know Pacific Islanders exist, or

  • They don't know that unlike Asians, Pacific Islanders are underrepresented...

...then of course these programs wouldn't include Pacific Islanders with African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian and Alaska Natives. But the fact is that we do exist, and we are underrepresented, so that begs the question: why haven't we spoken up? Why is it that while a few Pacific Islanders have spoken out on this issue, there hasn't been a community-wide movement?

I welcome your answers to this question. I have my own ideas, but to be honest, instead of getting stuck on why it hasn't happened yet, I'd like us to turn our focus to making it happen. But in order to do that, we need to communicate with each other, with our friends, and with the people who set the policies at academic programs for underrepresented minorities.

Our next post will focus on our future allies: the underrepresented minority academic programs that currently exclude Pacific Islanders.


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Pacific Islander Americans: Underrepresented in Higher Education, Unnoticed by most Academic Programs for Underrepresented Minorities

Pacific Islander Americans trace their ancestry to the original peoples of Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia. The one-million-plus Pacific Islanders who live in the 50 States include those who are indigenous to parts of the Pacific that are now U.S. soil (the State of Hawaii, American Samoa, and Guam, as well as immigrants and native-born Americans of immigrant ancestry. (Some sources indicate Pacific Islanders began immigrating to North America before the "western frontier" was part of the United States.)

Like African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indians and Alaska Natives, Pacific Islanders are a minority group working to contribute to the Nation we all call home. And like the minority population in general, America's Pacific Islander population is growing faster than the U.S. population in general. It's also true that like the three aforementioned groups (and unlike Asian Americans), Pacific Islander are underrepresented in higher education. In fact, the U.S. Census indicates that Pacific Islander Americans are over 40 percent less likely to receive a Bachelors degree, and less than half as likely to receive an advanced degree (M.A., J.D. M.D., PhD, etc.).

(These number in more detail: According to a 2009 news release from the U.S. Census Bureau, 28 percent of the general U.S. population over 25-years-old have at least a Bachelors degree - nearly three in ten. By comparison, looking at Americans who describe themselves as Pacific Islander-alone (I'll get into the nuts and bolts of racial classification in a future post), only 15 percent have at least a Bachelors degree.

That's 46 percent less!

When we look at advanced degrees, the gap is even wider: ten percent of the U.S. population over 25-year-old has an advanced degree. Just four percent of the Pacific Islander population can say the same.

That's 60 percent less!

In other words, Pacific Islanders are nearly half-as-likely to receive a Bachelors degree, and far less than half-as-likely to receive an advanced degree, compared to the U.S. population in general. )

Being underrepresented in higher education is one of the things Pacific Islander Americans have in common with African Americans, Hispanics, and American Indian and Alaska Natives. But in one very important respect, Pacific Islanders are not likely their underrepresented counterparts: Pacific Islander Americans are excluded from most academic programs for underrepresented minorities.

Tragically, these two problems -- 1.) underrepresentation in higher education, and 2.) exclusion from programs designed to help underrepresented minorities graduate from college --create a vicious cycle for Pacific Islanders. Exclusion from programs that can help them graduate makes it less likely that they will earn a diploma. Lower graduate rates, in turn, means that underrepresentation continues. This leads to fewer Pacific Islander college graduates serving as role models and mentors to friends, family and neighbors.

And of course, it also means that Pacific Islander Americans are less likely to be aware of, or push to get included in, the wonderful higher education scholarships, fellowships, and support programs that help other underrepresented minorities.

The solution - I believe - lies in a different kind of education. Educating Pacific Islanders are others about the programs their promising students should be included in, and educating academic programs for underrepresented minorities about why they should include Pacific Islanders.

We're going to work on that.


Saturday, January 23, 2010

The PIA project blog begins!

Mahalo for visiting the Pacific Islander Access (PIA) project's blog, and reading our inagural post. Alongside the "PIA project 101" information we've archived on this site and made available on our more traditionally formatted website (http://piaproject.tumblr.com/), this blog will go deeper into the issues surrounding the exclusion of Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders from academic programs for underrepresented minorities.

We plan to publish posts on a regular basis, providing a mix of:
  • Commentary on current events
  • Information on issues related to the underrepresentation of Pacific Islander Americans in higher education, and
  • Updates on the work of the PIA project and our allies to include Pacific Islanders in those programs

We have a lot of ideas to share, but we also want to hear yours. If you look over the info on our tumblr website and still have questions, or if you have an idea for a topic, please feel free to contact us.

The next post will focus on the twin-problems that the PIA project is out to solve - the underrepresentation of Pacific Islanders and their exclusion from higher education programs for underrepresented minorities.

Me ka ha'a ha'a,