Saturday, August 18, 2012

National Study on Pacific Islander Access to Underrepresented Minority Scholarships and Fellowships: access rising, but most still exclude Pacific Islanders

The Pacific Islander Access project's mission is to expand higher education opportunities for America's growing Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander community.

We maintain this blog to raise awareness about the Pacific Islander American community in general, but we are particularly concerned about one specific problem that holds our community back:

Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education, but they are excluded from applying to many scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities.

Earlier this month, I blogged about the 2004 study that took me down the path that led to the creation of the Pacific Islander Access project.  While that study's findings are still important, we wanted to show you where the numbers are today.  Our question was simple: how many scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities are still excluding Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders from applying?

We looked at 50 scholarships and fellowships from across the United States, all of whom either limited access or gave a strong stated preference to underrepresented minorities.  We then looked at how those organizations -- in their own words -- defined "underrepresented."  This definition matters greatly, because if a program is limited to underrepresented minority applicants, and their definition of "underrepresented minority" excludes Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders, then Pacific Islanders can't apply...even though they're underrepresented.

Here's what we found:

2012 National Study on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander Access to Scholarships and Fellowships for Underrepresented Minorities

  • 28 percent recognize that Pacific Islanders are underrepresented
  • 56 percent continue to exclude all Pacific Islanders
  • 16 percent include some Pacific Islander sub-groups, but do not recognize that Pacific Islanders, as a whole, are an underrepresented group
We have a lot to say about the results of this study (and we'll do follow up posts on our findings), but here are the two main points:
  1. Once again, research shows that despite decades worth of data confirming that Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders are underrepresented in higher education, they cannot even apply for many scholarships and fellowships for underrepresented minorities. 
  2. On the other hand, this study also demonstrates that a growing number of underrepresented minority programs do recognize Pacific Islander underrepresentation -- the rate of recognition rose from 21 percent in 2004, to 28 percent in 2012.  This is slow progress, but it's progress nonetheless.
Now that we've finished this study, the Pacific Islander Access project is going to work to raise awareness about it, and to contact the programs included in our study.  We've already written to the forward-thinking programs that recognize Pacific Islander underrepresentation.  We've also shared our data with the programs that only recognize certain Pacific Islander sub-groups.  

And of course, we'll be reaching out to the programs that still exclude Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.  We're letting them know about our study, sharing data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation, and asking them to make the right choice.  We'll keep you posted on our progress. 

Mahalo for reading.


--At this time, I also want to give a special thanks to Karin Karpin, my principle assistant for this study.  Karin joined the P.I.A. project as an intern several years ago, and has since risen to be our vice president and a member of our board of directors. Her help with this research project was invaluable, as were her ideas and enthusiasm as we completed this national study.  

Karin will soon begin her first semester in medical school, and I know she'll excel as a scholar and physician.  Mahalo Karin!

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