How AANAPISIs Provide Support for AAPI Students

Like HBCUs center Black students, AANAPISIs support Asian American and Pacific Islander students. Learn more about AANAPISI-designated colleges.
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  • The Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander (AANAPISI) program provides grants to colleges and universities.
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students must make up at least 10% of the undergraduate student body.
  • Students attending an AANAPISI benefit from support services and scholarships.

Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions play an important role in higher education. Dr. Karen Su, Principal Investigator and Project Director of the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) AANAPISI Initiative, says that "AAPI students make up a large and broad sector of students in higher education but are often the least understood and researched. The AANAPISI designation recognizes the specific needs of many AAPI students who need support to succeed in college."

But what is an AANAPISI? In addition to offering targeted academic and support services for Asian American and Pacific Islander students, AANAPISIs have become a place where AAPI students can discover and learn more about their history and culture in a safe environment.

What is an AANAPISI?

The acronym stands for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions. In 2007, the federal government created the AANAPISI Program to support and fund institutions that serve Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students.

AANAPISIs are one of several designated Minority Serving Institutions. Other MSIs include Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs). Added to the group in 2011, AANAPISIs are the newest MSI category and support underrepresented AAPI groups.

At an AANAPISI, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students make up at least 10% of the undergraduate student body. The federal AANAPISI program distributes grants to colleges and universities that qualify. Before receiving a grant, institutions must apply for a Designation of Eligibility. While over 130 colleges qualify for the designation, fewer have applied or received grants.

In its first year, the AANAPISI program funded six institutions: City College of San Francisco, De Anza Community College, Guam Community College, South Seattle Community College, the University of Hawai'i at Hilo, and the University of Maryland, College Park.

AANAPISIs support AAPI students in several ways. Some institutions create courses and programs that teach AAPI history. Others establish centers that mentor and support students. And AANAPISIs also offer leadership and community-based learning opportunities. These institutions support students by challenging the harmful model minority myth.

"Many AANAPISIs have developed academic support services for AAPI students, focusing on STEM and English language learning support, peer mentoring, peer coaching, student leadership development programs, and financial literacy workshops. Some have also expanded campus capacity to provide faculty and staff with mental health awareness and professional development to better serve the needs of AAPI students. AANAPISI services and resources are culturally responsive to AAPI students, which is significant because more robust AAPI-centered curricular and co-curricular programs are still needed at most universities and colleges."

— Karen Su, Principal Investigator and Project Director of the UIC Asian American Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) Initiative
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AANAPISI Colleges in the United States

There are currently 37 AANAPISI grant-receiving institutions in the U.S., primarily located on the West Coast. Students can also attend AANAPISIs in several U.S. territories.

List of U.S. AANAPISI Colleges

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The Value-Added Benefits of Attending an AANAPISI

  • Broad Representation of the AAPI Community: The AAPI community includes 25 Asian American and 23 Pacific Islander groups. Unfortunately, the broad category "Asian American" can obscure the uniqueness of each of these groups. AANAPISIs celebrate the diversity in the AAPI community. They also support students who struggle in college.
  • More Resources for AAPI Students: Grants from the AANAPISI program help colleges open AAPI centers, fund counseling programs, and offer leadership and mentorship opportunities for students. These resources help AAPI students thrive in college and successfully move into the workplace.
  • A Focus on AAPI History and Culture: Many AANAPISIs use their grants to establish or expand programs devoted to AAPI history and culture. Some institutions offer Asian American studies programs where undergraduates can take courses or major in the field. The focus on AAPI history and culture can help students feel welcome and engaged on campus.
  • A Community of Engaged AAPI Students: Asian American and Pacific Islander students must make up 10% of the undergraduate student body for colleges to be eligible for AANAPISI designation. These institutions use their grants to foster a stronger sense of community for AAPI students. Institutions create programs and centers to encourage student engagement and improve student success.
  • Qualify for AANAPISI Scholarships: Asian American and Pacific Islander students enrolled at AANAPISIs qualify for several scholarships. The APIA Scholars program provides up to $5,000 scholarships for eligible students. These scholarships can help students cover the cost of their college degree.

AANAPISI Scholarships and Student Resources

AAPI students attending AANAPISIs qualify for scholarships and benefit from student resources. For example, the AANAPISI Scholarship awards $2,500-$5,000 scholarships to eligible students. Applicants must identify as AAPI, be first-generation college students, and meet income eligibility requirements. The scholarship accepts applications annually with a November deadline.

Colleges also offer resources for AAPI students. Some institutions hire counselors to work with AAPI students. Schools also provide focused support services and opportunities for students in underserved groups. Because the student resources vary so much by school, students considering an AANAPISI should research the resources at their prospective schools.

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The AANAPISI program helps colleges support underrepresented groups, including first-generation and low-income students. AAPI students benefit from enrolling at AANAPISIs. These institutions offer academic and career support for students.

In spite of the fact that over 130 colleges qualify for AANAPISI status, fewer than 80 schools have applied for the designation. However, the successes at current AANAPISIs show the value of the program.

"The community of higher ed researchers and student affairs practitioners working with AAPI students continues to be a robust resource for faculty and staff teaching and supporting AAPI students, whether at an AANAPISI or a non-AANAPISI," says Su. "It's important for all institutions to recognize the unique needs of AAPI students, and to support them and the faculty and staff who work with them."

With Advice From:

Portrait of Karen Su

Karen Su

Karen Su teaches in the Global Asian Studies Program at UIC. She is the Principal Investigator and Project Director of the UIC AANAPISI Initiative, which is fully funded by the U.S. Department of Education. The Initiative encompasses four grants, totalling $7.1 million, to enhance UIC's capacity to support programs and activities that improve the educational outcomes and experiences for Asian American, Pacific Islander, English language learner, and low-income undergraduate students at UIC. UIC became the first funded AANAPISI in the Midwest in 2010. It is now one of two in Chicago, along with Oakton Community College. It is one of five AANAPISIs in the Midwest.