Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Can you show me census data on Pacific Islander Underrepresentation?

Q. Can you show me data from the U.S. Census on Pacific Islander underrepresentation in higher education?

A. Yes. For over two decades, the U.S. Census has collected and published data reflecting the significant underrepresentation of Pacific Islander Americans among college graduates.

As we've mentioned before, recent Census data shows that compared to the national average, Pacific Islanders are 50 percent less likely to graduate with a bachelors degree, and 60 percent less likely to graduate with an advanced degree.

Here are links to over two decades of data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation. We've included year-by-year figures for the past five years, then decade-by-decade data for the past twenty years. The links take you to larger reports or data features, which include Pacific Islander graduation rates along with other information.

The Past 5 Years
Each year, the U.S. Census publishes data ahead of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. In observance of federal policy, it shows information for both Pacific Islanders and Asians, recognizing each as a distinct group. Here are the releases from the last five years, each of which shows Pacific Islander college graduation rates compared to the national average.
10+ Years
Here is a Census 2000 data brief on educational attainment in the United States. Along with the graduation rates of other racial groups, you can see Pacific Islander representation, and compare that to the national average: LINK

20+ Years
In the 1990s, as part of the "We the People" series, the Census Bureau published a paper on Pacific Islander Americans using data from the 1990 Census. There's a lot of information here about Pacific Islanders, including college graduation rates (page 4): LINK

Here's a chart to visually display 20-plus-years of U.S. Census data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation:

Sunday, August 21, 2011

What is the Pacific Islander Access project?

Q. What is the Pacific Islander Access project?

A. The P.I.A. project is a nonprofit corporation dedicated to helping academic programs for underrepresented minorities choose to include Pacific Islanders alongside other minorities that are underrepresented in higher education.

The Pacific Islander Access project is a lean organization run entirely by volunteers who know that this issue is important enough for us to to this for free. We are a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation founded in Washington, DC.

Though we've only been incorporated since 2010, our work to increase Pacific Islander access to higher education programs goes back to 2003, when one of our founders applied for an underrepresented minority fellowship, and was told that Pacific Islanders weren't eligible. He helped that program change its practices. After that he went on to do a national study, which found that many other scholarships and fellowships didn't recognize that Pacific Islanders were underrepresented.

Years later, after revisiting the old study, he found that while some of the academic programs now included Pacific Islanders, others still didn't. Following a few conversations about what it would take to end Pacific Islander exclusion, it became clear that if we wanted academic programs to change their policies, we needed to help them understand why.

With that goal in mind, he and others started a project to increase Pacific Islander access to academic programs for underrepresented minorities. They decided to call the project to increase their access to higher education exactly just that -- the Pacific Islander Access project.

Want to know more about our leadership?  Click here to read the personal stories of each of our board members, as they explain why the P.I.A. project matters to them: LINK

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Many academic programs for underrepresented minorities recognize Pacific Islanders. What are some examples?

Q. We say that many scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities acknowledge that Pacific Islanders should be allowed to apply -- can we back that up with specific examples?

A. Yes we can.

Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education, and many academic programs for underrepresented minorities rightfully allow them to apply. In fact, since we started sharing our data last fall, thirteen underrepresented minority scholarships changed their own policies when they looked and the data and decided that they didn't want to choose to exclude Pacific Islanders.

The first five of those scholarships are the HBCU Minority Scholarship, the Actuarial Diversity Scholarship, the Martin Luther King Jr. Scholarship, and two National Medical Fellowships scholarships. To see the rest, just click here to view our "honor roll" page: link

While our research previously indicated that most underrepresented minority programs were excluding Pacific Islanders, our research indicates big changes. Based on our most recent tracking data, most underrepresented minority programs include Pacific Islanders, and less than one in three still misclassify Pacific Islanders.

In addition to those outstanding programs, here are a few examples (I've included a mix of programs that are exclusive to underrepresented minorities and others that simply give preference.) --
  • The National Institutes of Health Research Supplements to Promote Diversity for Undergraduate Students: LINK
  • The University of Washington Diversity Award: LINK
  • Cornell Diversity Fellowship: LINK
  • Clifford Clark Graduate Fellowship Program for Diversity: LINK
All of these programs provide great opportunities for promising students, and are even better for the fact that they are aware of the data that has consistently shown that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education.

Unfortunately, too many other academic programs for underrepresented minorities still need to look at the data on Pacific Islanders. But thanks to the positive example set by these programs and others, we can say that inclusion of Pacific Islanders -- not exclusion -- is now the norm for underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Why should underrepresented minority programs allow Pacific Islanders to apply?

Q. Why should underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships allow Pacific Islanders to apply?

A. Because Pacific Islanders are underrepresented, and if they exclude them, they exclude part of the community they're trying to serve -- underrepresented minorities.

In addition, it's in the best interest of the academic programs -- they can do more to reach their goal (to help underrepresented minorities) by insuring that they're not leaving out a qualified group in need. Of course it's also in the interest of Pacific Islanders -- by giving them a better chance to achieve their full potential as individuals, and to work towards reducing their underrepresentation as a group.

If you lead or are part of an academic program that intends to help underrepresented minorities, please don't exclude Pacific Islanders. Instead, consider the facts, think of your potential to make a difference for them, and choose not to exclude Pacific Islander Americans.