Friday, June 24, 2011

What do we mean by Underrepresented Minority?

Q. What do we mean by "Underrepresented Minority"?

A. In higher education, this term describes a racial or ethnic group that is less likely to attend or graduate from college (in other words -- be "represented" among college students and college graduates) than the general population. Minorities can be underrepresented in general, at a certain level (bachelor's degree holders or graduate student, for example), or within a certain academic discipline (like computer science or law).

When measuring college graduation rates in the U.S., the PIA project draws mainly from data provided by the U.S. Census. According to recent Census data, over 28 percent of U.S. residents of age (25 or older) have at least a bachelor's degree. In other to be underrepresented among bachelors degree holders, a minority group must have a college graduation rate that is lower than the national average of 28 percent.

By comparison to the national average of 28 percent, only 14 percent of single-race Pacific Islander Americans have a 4-year-degree.

(This is according to data published in May, 2011. Because these numbers continually change, we'll update this section periodically. Here's a link to the data we're currently using: LINK)

Friday, June 17, 2011

What is a Pacific Islander?

Q. What is a Pacific Islander?

A. Pacific Islanders are individuals who trace all or some of their ancestry to the original people of any of the three major island groups in the Pacific: Polynesia, Micronesia, and Melanesia.

When using the term "Pacific Islander," we follow the U.S. government definition of "Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander." This makes sense both because it's a consistent, commonly used definition, and because it allows us to accurately draw from data provided by the U.S. Census and other groups who use the same definition as the Census.

Pacific Islanders are recognized in federal policy as a unique, distinct racial group for the purpose of racial and ethnic data collection. They are one of the fastest growing racial groups in the United States, and they live in every State of the Union. They include Pacific Islanders who are native to areas that are now part of the United States (Native Hawaiians from Hawaii, Samoans from American Samoa, and Chamorro from Guam), as well as others.

To break it down further, here is a list of Pacific Islander sub-groups, broken down by the three major island groups (according to the U.S. Census):
  • Polynesia: Examples include Native Hawaiians, Samoans, Tongan, Tahitian, Tokelauan, and other Polynesian.

  • Micronesia: Examples include Chamorro, Saipanese, Palauian, Carolinian, Kosraean, Pohnpeian, Chuukese, Marshallese, I-Kiribati, and other Micronesian.

  • Melanesia: Examples include Fijian, Papua New Guinean, Solomon Islander, Ni-Vanuatu, and other Melanesian.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

What is an Underrepresented Minority ("URM") Academic Program?

Q. What is an Underrepresented Minority (URM) Academic Program?

A. An Underrepresented Minority (or "URM") academic program is a scholarship, fellowship, or other academic program for students who are underrepresented in higher education.

In other words, helping underrepresented minorities is a major goal for these programs, and they either give preference or limit access to applicants who are members of minority groups they recognize to be underrepresented.

URM academic programs play a critical role in the work people are doing to close the diploma gap in America. Why? Because they are actively working to help underrepresented minorities help themselves, though financial aid, access to training, and other services. As the underrepresented minority population grows (they accounted for most U.S. population growth in the past decade) closing the education gap isn't just about helping minorities -- it's about helping our nation as a whole.

Most scholarships, fellowships, and other academic programs ARE NOT underrepresented minority academic programs. In fact, URM academic programs make up just a small fraction of the total amount of financial aid available to college students. Still, they play an important role by working to fix a growing national problem.

Monday, June 06, 2011

Underrepresented Minority Academic Programs and Pacific Islanders

This is the first in a series of posts written specifically to help scholarships, fellowships, and other academic programs for underrepresented minorities -- also known as URM (underrepresented minority) academic programs.

URM academic programs are scholarships, fellowships, or other programs that are intended to serve those racial and ethnic groups that are underrepresented in the U.S. higher education system. As we've blogged about before, Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, but they're excluded from many of these programs.

Our research has found that while some URM academic programs recognize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, others don't allow them to apply alongside other underrepresented minorities -- yet. (There are also some in-betweeen URM academic programs which recognize that some Pacific Islander sub-groups are underrepresented, while leaving out others.)

We believe that the missing link is information -- some URM academic programs may not realize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented.

Our goal is to give URM academic programs an easy way to access the facts about Pacific Islander underrepresentation. And for those that don't currently allow Pacific Islanders to apply alongside other underrepresented minority groups, we want to help them change. We recognize that this is good for URM academic programs and for Pacific Islanders, because it helps URM academic programs achieve their mission of helping underrepresented minorities while giving Pacific Islanders a better chance at achieving their potential.

The next several posts will answer questions that URM academic programs may ask when considering their policy toward Pacific Islanders. We may take an occasional break from the series to blog on current events or updates, but the next season of posts will largely be written with the URM audience in mind.