Sunday, April 28, 2013

Pacific Islander students roughly half as likely to have a parent with a college degree

For decades, the U.S. Census has produced data showing that Pacific Islanders are significantly less likely to hold college degrees than the general population.  Still, our research indicates that just half of all underrepresented minority academic programs recognize that some or all Pacific Islanders are underrepresented. (We should add that the number of underrepresented minority programs that exclude Pacific Islanders is falling rapidly -- from 56 percent of our sample last fall to just 50 percent today.)

There's no magic wand to solve this issue overnight, but we believe that an important way to address the issue is by raising awareness.  That's why we're educating underrepresented minority programs, and asking them to change their policies. It's also why we're writing on this blog, sharing information with you.

In that spirit, here's another study in that area: The National Center for Educational Statistics published a paper last August called "Higher Education: Gaps in Access and Persistence Study."  Among other things, the study found that Pacific Islander students are just under half as likely to have a parent with a college degree, compared with the general population. (35 percent for the general population vs. 18 percent for Pacific Islanders.)

You can read the whole study here, or view the page that I mentioned here. Let's hope that more underrepresented minority scholarships choose to allow Pacific Islanders keeps increasing, so that more Pacific Islander children and parents are able to achieve their dreams.



Saturday, April 20, 2013

50-50 split: Underrepresented minority programs that recognize some or all Pacific Islanders now split evenly with those who don't

(Click graphic to view larger image)

Last year, we shared the findings of our national study on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander (aka "Pacific Islander") eligibility for underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships. We found that each of the programs in our study fell into one of three groups:
  • Those who exclude all Pacific Islanders (56 percent)
  • Those who include all Pacific Islanders (28 percent)
  • Those who include some Pacific Islander sub-groups (such as Native Hawaiians or Samoans) but exclude others (16 percent)
We've blogged about the exact stats, especially the fact that most underrepresented minority programs in our sample -- 56 percent -- didn't include any Pacific Islanders. 

We also told you that we were going to take that data, and start educating the scholarships and fellowships that didn't recognize Pacific Islanders at the time of our study. Our hope was that if we gave them easy access to accurate information, the programs would decide for themselves that they shouldn't exclude an underrepresented group. 

It's been slow and steady, but that is what's happening. Since we started contacting the programs last fall, three scholarships that previously excluded all Pacific Islanders changed their policies, and two scholarships that previously excluded some Pacific Islanders opened their door to the entire Islander population. That was five programs in the first six months.

As a result, the percentage of underrepresented minority scholarships that exclude all Pacific Islanders has fallen from 56 percent to 50 percent!

Meanwhile, the percentage of programs that recognize all Pacific Islanders has risen from 28 percent to 38 percent, and the number who only recognize some Pacific Islander sub-groups has dropped from 16 percent to 12 percent. Together, programs who recognize some or all Pacific Islanders as underrepresented now equal 50 percent as well, resulting in a 50-50 split.

We've been tracking this issue since 2004, and this is the first time that programs which exlcude Pacific Islanders are no longer in the majority!

This is a significant shift from just last year, and an even bigger change from 2004, when the rate of exclusion for all Pacific Islanders was 64 percent.

50 percent is still way too high, but it's progress. We're excited about the next program who will make the right decision, and in doing so drive down the rate of exclusion even more. Who will it be?

Over the long haul, we want to see the percentage of programs that exclude Pacific Islanders to fall all the way to zero.  We will keep doing our part by reaching out to the programs themselves and raising public awareness. I hope we can count on them, and you, to make it happen. 


Saturday, April 06, 2013

National Academy of Sciences recognizes Pacific Islander underrepresentation... Which means Missouri Scholarship does too!

We've been sharing a lot of good news with you since completing our national study on Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander access to underrepresented minority scholarships and fellowships last fall, and providing information to the programs that excluded Pacific Islanders at the time of our study. That's because the scholarships and fellowships are making the right decision -- to include Pacific Islanders -- after reviewing decades of data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation in higher education.

Several leading academic entities recognized this well before last year's national study, like the National Academy of Sciences. In 2011, their report on underrepresented minorities recognized that Pacific Islanders are an underrepresented group. (You can read that report here: LINK.)

On page 22 of that report, they write:

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. Asians, while a minority group in the U.S. population, are typically overrepresented in science and engineering fields. 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. 

Recognition by the National Academies of Science is important for many reasons. One you might not think of: at least one state sets its definition of underrepresented (for the purposes of a state-run scholarship) based on what the National Academy of Sciences says.

We're referring to the State of Missouri's Minority and Underrepresented Environmental Literacy Program, which runs a scholarship to help high achieving underrepresented minorities earn a degree in an environmental field of study. This program includes Pacific Islanders as an underrepresented minority.

Why? Because Missouri law provides that for this program, the definition of "underrepresented minority" will follow the data and findings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Mahalo to the National Academy of Sciences for recognizing the data on Pacific Islander underrepresentation, and to the State of Missouri for establishing a standard that includes deserving underrepresented minority groups.


For those interested, here is a link to the State of Missouri's Minority and Underrepresented Environmental Literacy Program: LINK

Here is a link to the Missouri State law I mentioned: LINK

And just for good measure, we've pasted a copy of the relevant section of the Missouri Revised Statutes:

Missouri Revised Statutes

Chapter 173
Department of Higher Education
Section 173.240 

August 28, 2012

Program established--fund created--purpose--administration--rulemaking authority--advisory committee created, members, duties.
173.240. 1. There is hereby established within the department of higher education a "Minority and Underrepresented Environmental Literacy Program". The department of higher education, hereafter referred to as the department, may award scholarships to minority and underrepresented students to pursue environmentally related courses of study. The scholarships shall be administered by the department recruitment and retention program under the supervision of the minority environmental literacy advisory committee established under this section. Those ethnic groups which are most severely underrepresented, as determined by data gathered and maintained by the National Academy of Sciences, shall receive priority in annual selection.