Earlier this month, I had the distinct privilege to speak about the importance of Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) at a convening organized by the newly established Center on Minority Serving Institutions at the University of Pennsylvania. College presidents and administrators, foundation leaders, advocates, practitioners and researchers came together to learn and share best practices. What was unique about this convening was having a diverse set of MSIs in one room together -- learning from and about each other, sharing best practices on a range of critical education issues, and promoting collaboration.
At the convening, I reiterated the numbers we know too well: By the end of this decade, our nation will need an additional 1.5 million college graduates to meet the demands of our economy, and yet, the reality is we will have 6 million workers without a high school degree who will be unable to find jobs.
MSIs play an important role in achieving President Obama’s goal to lead the world with the highest proportion of college graduates by 2020. They enroll more than 2.3 million students and a significant proportion of minority students in this country, and are also responsible for more than 20 perecent of all degrees needed to meet the President’s 2020 goal. Some MSIs hold a unique status in the U.S. -- like HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges & Universities) or Tribal Colleges and Universities -- while others must meet specific percentages of minority and low-income students enrolled in their institutions. These types of MSI institutions include Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISIs), Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Native Hawaiian Serving Institutions, among others.
MSIs are educating the fastest growing student populations in the country, and are accomplishing this goal through culturally sensitive and relevant curricula and environments that encourage students to develop a sense of identity and self-worth. They prioritize students in need and are developing innovative programs focused on remediation, first year and transfer students, retention and much more. I learned about many of these initiatives at the MSI Convening.
The convening was a reminder of the important role MSIs play in our higher education system, both in meeting President Obama’s goal for college attainment and in educating diverse students across the country.
Kiran Ahuja is the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on AAPIs.