AANAPISIs: Serving a Critical AAPI Student Population

Recently I had the distinct privilege to join Education Secretary Arne Duncan when he met with Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander education stakeholders to discuss a number of education issues affecting the community.  They presented a range of issues, such as the importance of data disaggregation, addressing bullying/harassment, and serving native populations, as well as the significance of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) in educating low-income, first generation college students, and helping to achieve President Obama’s goal of having the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020.

Attendees requested a clear statement that AANAPISIs are indeed within the same class of institutions as Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions under the Higher Education Act. Community members relayed that because of this lack of clarity, higher education institutions, advocates, and even federal agencies were uncertain whether AANAPISIs could qualify or apply for federal grant opportunities across the federal government.

In response to these concerns, the Department has updated its website.  To the extent federal agencies utilize this statutory authority to target grants and programmatic opportunities, we recommend and encourage listing “Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs)” along with the other classes of schools delineated under the HEA.  In addition, the website clarifies that the specific definition of “Minority Institutions” (MIs) applies only to the Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Program (MSEIP) and other programs that reference the same MI definition, which includes Pacific Islanders but not Asian Americans.

AANAPISIs, and other postsecondary institutions enrolling populations with significant percentages of undergraduate minority students, play a critical role in our higher education efforts.  AANAPISIs serve almost 40 percent of the nation’s AAPI student population, and are predominantly community colleges.  Take a look at this video and share it with schools, advocates, and students to better understand what AANAPISIs are:

We hope this clarification encourages higher education institutions that meet this designation to research and apply for opportunities across the federal government to support their student body and the communities in which they reside.  And we are hopeful that agencies and departments will utilize this information when making federal grants and opportunities available to underserved populations.

Jamienne Studley is Deputy Under Secretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.