Navigation is a word we often use in higher education.

But long before it became part of my profession, I knew it simply in the context of being a Pacific Islander. It evoked images of my ancestors — master navigators — exploring the open ocean on double-hulled canoes, relying only on the signs of nature to chart their path on an endless blue horizon.

I am proud to be a descendent of master navigators. And at the same time, daily I face the reality that Pacific Islander students and the institutions that serve them are navigating an entirely different ocean.

Only 18 percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) adults age 25 or older hold a college degree (a rate identical to African-Americans). And certain NHPI ethnic groups have even lower percentages of college graduates.

. . .

Only 18 percent of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (NHPI) adults age 25 or older hold a college degree (a rate identical to African-Americans). And certain NHPI ethnic groups have even lower percentages of college graduates.

. . .

The chart available below, from the report “A Community of Contrasts: Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders in the United States, 2014,” has additional details. The report is from Empowering Pacific Islander Communities and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

Adding to the complexity are the nearly 20 different NHPI ethnicities reported on the 2010 Census. NHPIs make their homes in U.S. states and territories and in freely associated states with varying geographic and economic challenges and, therefore, varying access to resources. Only in 1997 did the U.S. Office of Management and Budget mandate the use of separate data for NHPIs.

These issues are why targeted investments to institutions supporting high numbers of NHPI students are critical to the community’s future academic and professional success.

Advancing success in college, careers

USA Funds® has been a key partner in the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund’s work not only to provide college scholarships to first generation students, but also to paint a more accurate picture of our community through groundbreaking research and disaggregated data on educational attainment.

Most recently, USA Funds has supported APIASF in a first-of-its-kind project to support Pacific Island campuses in their efforts to help students effectively navigate key transitions from college to career through online education.

Funding through the E-TOPIA Project (Enhancing Technology and Online Education at Pacific Island AANAPISIs) was made available to all federally designated Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs) in the Pacific Islands in a partnership with fellow AANAPISI campus and online education leader, Coastline Community College.

Four campuses participated in the project’s pilot year, working to scale Coastline’s successful online education efforts:

While it opens many doors for accessing educational opportunities, online education requires a specific level of preparedness and structure to ensure that students achieve positive outcomes. Guided by an advisory panel, Coastline Community College faculty conducted planning meetings with each institution to assess online education needs and explore potential interventions through the following methods:

  • Online tutors and coaching.
  • Structured pathways to completion.
  • A distance learning readiness tool that measures student knowledge and performance in areas identified with online success.
  • A data management system that assists with reporting and assessing program effectiveness.

After months of planning, leaders from each campus convened at Coastline’s Summer Technology Institute in Orange County, Calif., July 28-29. The event was an intensive two days full of group sessions, one-on-one discussions with Coastline team mentors, and a final E-TOPIA team meeting.

Thanks to USA Funds, the Pacific Island institutions returned to their campuses equipped with enhanced skills, a network of resources, and final implementation plans to work toward increasing college completion and successful career transition for their students this academic year.

APIASF thanks USA Funds for supporting our most underserved campuses and student populations through this critical grant. We also thank our AANAPISI partners at Coastline Community College for their support in helping future generations of Pacific Islander students navigate college and career success.

To learn more about the work of AANAPISIs, please visit