By Jennie L. Ilustre
“We need to have all our kids succeed in getting college education,” keynote speaker Tina Tchen stressed at the Higher Education Summit, held on June 25 in the nation’s capital.
“What you all are doing is so important to making sure that all will reach that goal,” she told leaders of the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), the event organizer, as well as advocates, educators and scholarship recipients.
Ms. Tchen, an Assistant to the President and Chief of Staff to First Lady Michelle Obama, noted that education is the key to regaining the nation’s global competitiveness. “We went from No. 1 to 14th in the world,” she said.
She added: “Education is a particular area that President Obama and the First Lady pay special attention to, because they know that education was the key that got them to where they are.”
In a video message that started the summit, held at the Ronald Reagan International Trade Center, US Education Secretary Arne Duncan reaffirmed the administration’s commitment to “boosting college completion.”
Ms. Tchen said the Asian American community has gone a long way. “We are being noticed and our voices are being heard,” she said, adding that “we must use that voice” to advance important issues and concerns.
The theme of the 4th annual summit was “Moving Forward: Engaging the Changing Face of America.” The 2010 US Census projects that the Asian Americans and Pacific islanders (AAPIs) will reach about 40 million by 2050.
In the next decade, AAPI students will experience a 35 percent increase in college enrollment. But college access and completion remains a challenge for many marginalized AAPI communities. About 50-60% of some AAPIs have never enrolled in college. Almost half attend community colleges.
The other speakers, APIASF President and Executive Director Neil Horikoshi and University of Guam President and former US Congressman Bob Underwood, echoed Ms. Tchen’s call.
Horikoshi urged greater support from campus administrators, higher education leaders and policy makers to increase the number of Asian American college graduates, as well as their access to higher education and post-graduate studies.
Both Horikoshi and Underwood appealed to the heads of schools eligible to be Asian American, Native American Pacific islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) to obtain this designation, to qualify for funding and help boost access to college. There are 153 schools eligible to be AANAPISIs.
Underwood stressed the “need for advocacy” from leaders of the Asian American & Pacific Islander Association of Colleges and Universities (APIACU). to obtain AANAPISI designation. He pointed out: “We need over $50 million for our institutions of higher learning — we’re only getting 10% of that amount now.”
APIASF and the National Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) have challenged philanthropic organizations to support a three-year initiative to boost AAPI college completion.
Those who have responded to this call are the Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, USA Funds and the Wal-Mart Foundation. The initiative is called “Partnership and Equity in education through Research (PEER).
APIASF is the only national scholarship organization with a program helping the underserved Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Since it started in 2003, it has granted over $60 million in college scholarships.
Of APIASF’s first three groupings of scholarship recipients in 2005, 2006 and 2007, 83 percent have become college graduates versus the national average of 30 percent. For its work, it was recently recognized in the Social Impact Exchange’s S&I 100 Index of Top Nonprofits Creating Social Impact – the only Asian American organization to make the list.
Horikoshi acknowledged the support of its partners and community groups through the years. In the evening reception, APIASF recognized the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), OCA and the Southeast Asia Resource and Action Center (SEARAC).
Photos by JLI