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Higher Education Summit on Asian and Pacific Americans Convened

WASHINGTON — The lack of federal education assistance targeting struggling Asian and Pacific Islander American students and families drove Neil Horikoshi, president and executive director of the Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), and fund supporters to organize the first annual APIASF Higher Education Summit on Thursday in downtown Washington.

More than 400 students, scholars, and community leaders attended the daylong summit, whose speakers included Dr. Martha Kanter, under secretary of the U.S. Education Department, and Kiran Ahuja, the executive director of the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Summit speeches and sessions largely explored the obstacles that underserved Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students encounter in their pursuit of a college education. Speakers also made the argument for federal policies that target AAPI students and their families; for increasing investment in institutions that have significant Asian Pacific American student populations; and for improving research and data collection on the AAPI community.

Dr. Robert Teranishi, an associate professor of higher education at New York University, shared findings from the CARE report, a research project that has examined the diversity of Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in U.S. higher education and documented the needs of socially disadvantaged students within that population. The CARE study, which takes its name from the National Commission on AAPI Research in Education, dispels the notion that virtually all AAPI students are high-achieving and urges that policymakers include consideration of the AAPI population in higher education reform discussions.

Segments of the AAPI community face a pervasive problem of invisibility and being overlooked in federal higher education reform efforts, according to APIASF officials. The CARE study examines federal higher education policy priorities, including community colleges, minority-serving institutions and work-force development initiatives, where consideration of the AAPI population has been absent.

“This report recognizes the need of awareness (about the AAPI community) through research,” said Teranishi, who is the principal investigator for the National Commission on AAPI Research in Education. “The reason (for) this report is to produce strategies to assist us in reaching our goals.”

The Washington-based APIASF is the nation’s largest nonprofit organization that provides college scholarships to Asian and Pacific Islander Americans with financial need. The organization was founded in 2003.

“With this scholarship fund, we are able to assist with the funding for education of (AAPI) students,” Horikoshi said. 

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