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