Partnership for Equity in Education through Research (PEER)

The face of American education from K-12 to higher education is at the crossroads of tremendous demographic changes. According to the 2010 U.S. Census data, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) population is projected to reach nearly 40 million people by 2050. Data also show AAPI students will experience a 35 percent increase in college enrollment over the next decade. AAPI students are undoubtedly a rapidly growing population; and, therefore, supporting them can only produce greater civic engagement, economic growth, and leadership development.

Unfortunately, college completion remains elusive for many young AAPI students. This student population experiences harsh realities and unique challenges that hinder them from gaining access to higher education and/or earning a college degree. Although nearly half of all AAPI students enrolled in higher education are attending community colleges, they are more likely to enter with lower levels of academic preparation in English and mathematics. For example, 55.2 percent of AAPI students entering two-year colleges in 2003 had never taken a math course beyond Algebra II in high school, compared to only 12.7 percent of AAPI students entering four-year institutions in that same year.

Acknowledging that the challenges faced by AAPI students have an impact on all Americans, the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF) and the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education (CARE) challenged major philanthropic organizations to support a bold three-year initiative that would help realize the full degree-earning potential of the AAPI student population. The Kresge Foundation, Lumina Foundation, USA Funds, and the Walmart Foundation all stepped up and agreed to support an innovative effort called, the Partnership for Equity in Education through Research (PEER) project, which was launched in summer 2012.

The PEER project works through strategic partnerships with colleges and universities to help ensure that past access and success challenges experienced by the AAPI student population do not continue. Specifically, the project works collaboratively with three of the nation's Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions—De Anza College, City College of San Francisco, and South Seattle Community College—to help advance America's national college completion goals and the democratic mission of higher education.

In support of the PEER project, APIASF and CARE are together leading the "We're the Changing Face of America" campaign dedicated to increasing access and completion among AAPI students. Launched in March 2013, the campaign urges campus administrators, higher education leaders, and policymakers to take the following immediate actions:

  • ACTION STEP #1: Invest more in colleges and universities that serve AAPI students. Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, or AANAPISIs, enroll and confer degrees to a large concentration of the nation's AAPI undergraduate students. It is essential to build capacity to better understand and respond to these institutions' unique needs.

  • ACTION STEP #2: Increase federal and state financial resources for widespread AAPI student access and success. America's colleges and universities must prepare adequately for the large and growing 1.3 million AAPI student population, particularly because these students often have the lowest educational attainment rates and some of the highest poverty rates in the country.

  • ACTION STEP #3: Give more attention to understanding AAPI students. Policymakers and higher education leaders should expand their knowledge about and be more responsive to the AAPI community, rather than believe and act upon longstanding stereotypes and perceptions that hinder AAPI students from gaining access to higher education and/or earning a college degree.

With greater support from campus administrators, higher education leaders, and policymakers, the PEER project along with the We're the Changing Face of America campaign can possibly reshape the entire U.S. higher education system to equitably meet the unique needs of AAPI students.

For more information about the We're the Changing Face of America campaign, email info@changingfaceofamerica.com or visit www.changingfaceofamerica.com. Also, follow the campaign on Facebook (www.facebook.com/changingfaceofamerica) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/aapichange).