Increasing numbers of under-resourced Asian-American and Pacific Islander students earned the University of Minnesota a designation last week from the U.S. Department of Education that could give some students a chance at more federal grants.
The new designation could help the growing number of the student body who identity as AAPI receive up to $1.5 million in grants over five years.
Maikha Xiong, an Asian-American Student Union officer, said she was shocked when she found out about the school’s designation as an Asian-American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program.
“This designation was definitely needed for Asian-American students,” Xiong said. “We want to know why it’s only now that the U is becoming more designated for Asian-Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders.”
More than 3,000 undergraduate AAPI students registered during fall, according to the Office of Institutional Research.
That number is on the rise, said Office for Equity and Diversity Assistant Vice Provost, Virajita Singh.
“The Asian Pacific Islander students have been advocating for more involvement and focus on their needs,” Singh said. “This designation helps the institution to help more tangibly in terms of serving these students.”
The University will apply for grants from the U.S Department of Education. The College of Education and Human Development will announce the results soon, Singh said.
Funding from the grant program can be used for projects like renovating or building classrooms, libraries and laboratories, purchasing equipment and funding faculty positions, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
In 2010, the Asian American Studies program applied for the designation with the College of Education and Human Development, but suggested later that OED take on the application because the original would have only applied to students in the Asian American Studies Department.
While the Office for Equity and Diversity took on the responsibility of submitting the application, the entire application process was a cross-departmental effort, according to Director of Communications for OED, Anitra Cottledge.
Singh predicts the designation will also help all students of color on campus.
“It has been documented that students of color often struggle with completion of their education because of issues with our institutions and other factors,” she said.
In September, about 20 students from the unofficial student group Asian and Pacific Islanders for Equity and Diversity protested a perceived lack of transparency in the Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence and OED.
The group also demanded more faculty members who are Asian or Pacific Islander.
“I feel that this designation will really help with having more representation of Asian-Americans and Native American and Pacific Islanders on campus,” Xiong said. “Our representation does matter. There is no transparency for us on campus.”