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Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) students experience barriers to equitably access and persist in higher education institutions. Barriers to college access have overwhelming impacts on these outcomes. Our research indicates prominent barriers such as: limited access to postsecondary educational options; lack of adequate resources and information about college and financial aid; and persisting economic challenges that shape APIA students' experiences. In addition to these barriers, the larger challenge of debunking the model minority myth remains for students. Led by predominantly women and women of color with diverse representation across Asian American and Pacific Islander communities, our team comprises the nation’s largest non-profit scholarship provider for APIAs which has become the leading APIA voice in higher education. Over half of our scholars and alumni are first generation students and many of our current scholars live at or below the poverty line. APIA Scholars is a community-driven organization. Our work would not be possible without the efforts and generosity of countless Scholars, advisors, institutions, and supportive companies and their dedicated employees. Our dedicated staff of 20 ranges in expertise from those who served in higher education administration, student-centered programming in community spaces, culturally competent communications, and research and policy advocacy. A common thread uniting our staff is a shared perspective that while college access is our starting point, societal change is our goal. Our mission is to make a difference in the lives of APIA students by providing them with resources that increase their access to higher education which serves as the foundation for their future success and contributions to a more vibrant America. In pursuit of our mission, we evaluate success through quantitative metrics as well as anecdotally, listening deeply to the feedback from our community.
About the Organization:
Asian and Pacific Islander American (APIA) students experience barriers to equitably access and persist in higher education institutions. Barriers to college access have overwhelming impacts on these outcomes. Our research indicates prominent barriers such as: limited access to postsecondary educational options; lack of adequate resources and information about college and financial aid; and persisting economic challenges that shape APIA students' experiences. In addition to these barriers, the larger challenge of debunking the model minority myth remains for students. This myth suggests that APIAs are universally high achieving and do not experience educational equity disparities. While Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders (NHPIs) and Southeast Asians experience some of the lowest higher education attainment and completion rates in the country, APIAs are still overlooked as students in need of support. As researchers disaggregate educational attainment data by APIA ethnic groups, significant disparities have been uncovered. Bachelor's degree attainment by ethnic group range drastically from Chamorros (18.6%) and Hmong (23%) to Filipinos (48%), Chinese (57%), and Indians (75%). These examples highlight NHPIs continuing to face the greatest challenges to higher education with only 19% attaining a bachelor's degree. APIA Scholars maintains its commitment to serving the most underserved: two-thirds of our Scholars live at or below the poverty line, and 65% are first generation college students. It is critically important to understand how to serve the changing needs of low-income underrepresented APIA students as their post-secondary challenges have only been exacerbated by the pandemic. Beyond college access, we seek to address issues impacting students such as housing and food insecurity, mental health challenges, and representation in research and advocacy. We are proud of our 20-year journey to meet the needs of a rapidly growing community with the unique needs of Scholars at the center of our work. However, we also know our best efforts to uplift future APIAs will only be realized if we address the systems that continue to preclude them from success on their journey. We invite you to support our tireless efforts to ensure educational equity and access for all.
Twenty years ago, there was an exclusion of APIAs in college access and student success dialogues that were focused on minority, low-income, and first generation students. This lack of representation was detrimental to underserved APIA communities and led to the creation of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), now known as APIA Scholars. Our approach is rooted in putting student needs first and centering our commitment to scale our impact. This allows us to promote promote inclusion, equity, and representation on the individual, institutional and societal level. The journey of an APIA Scholar begins with opportunity and access to a college education. Our focus on multi-year scholarships and emergency funding removes financial barriers while promoting degree attainment. Data underscores that Scholars awarded a multi-year scholarship in their first year of attendance are more likely to graduate within six years (87.8%) with a bachelor's degree than students awarded with a one-year scholarship (83.0%). Our Emergency Fund is an available opportunity for Scholars experiencing a temporary, unexpected financial hardship risking their inability to persist in educational pursuits or graduate from college. We offer signature initiatives such as our Elevating Leaders Summit for Scholars to explore justice issues impacting APIAs, examining personal and cultural identity, and strategies to navigate college. Key initiatives include: mentorship programs focused on academic support and career development; a Mental Health Initiative aimed to destigmatize mental health support and provide accessible and culturally sensitive resources; our intensive curated Industry Fellowship program created in partnership with our sponsors; and the Applied Research Fellowship Program which enables full-time masters and doctoral students to play a significant role in advancing the organization’s student research and advocacy agenda. Our Fellows engage in projects informing the educational and workforce trajectory of APIA students across the nation, including mental health and wellbeing, leadership and civic engagement, English learners, and anti-Asian racism. Our programs remove barriers, build community, and expand students’ mentorship and networking into their college to career transition. We aim to increase opportunities for Scholars through our flagship programs while also pioneering new pathways to scale our efforts.