The University of Minnesota’s Asian Pacific American Resource Center faces uncertainty as the funding for some minority-serving institutions expires Monday and its renewal is stalled in the United States Senate.
APARC, which has operated at the University since 2016, provides support and resources for Asian American and Pacific Islander students on campus. The center is funded by a five-year Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution grant through the U.S. Department of Education. But as the center nears the tail-end of its grant, it may not have access to future funds.
More than $255 million in annual funding for minority-serving institutions across the country expires Monday, Sept. 30. The House of Representatives approved a two-year renewal of the funding through the Foster Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education Act, or FUTURE Act, on Sept. 17, but the bill has yet to be voted on in the Senate. It will be renegotiated on the Senate floor Tuesday.
In addition to Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions, Minority-Serving Institutions supported by the funds include Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-Serving Institutions and Tribal Colleges and Universities.
At the University of Minnesota, the grant helped APARC develop capacity to serve Asian American and Pacific Islander students on campus, said Kong Her, the program director at APARC.
Upon receiving the AANAPISI grant, the University was designated an Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution by the Department of Education.
“If the University of Minnesota is no longer designated as a minority-serving institution or an [Asian American and Pacific Islander-Serving Institution], I think it just sends a very strong message to our [Asian American and Pacific Islander] community to know that we had this [designation], and then we no longer have it,” Her said.
APARC is the only University-run Asian American and Pacific Islander identity-based resource on campus, Her said.
“We’re the only center that is thinking about providing resources, support, programming and activities through that kind of identity-based approach. So, I think without the funding, the University of Minnesota will lose a good resource to serve and support our [Asian American and Pacific Islander] students on campus.”
According to Her, the number of students APARC has been working with has exponentially increased every year since its establishment.
APARC has been raising awareness about the potential cut in funding and calling students to action on social media.
“The AANAPISI grant is vital to the success of our AAPI student community, especially those that are first generation and low-income students. The AANAPISI grant allowed us to create a home and sense of belonging in APARC. It allowed us to affirm the acknowledged struggles and needs of our AAPI community. APARC would not exist if it were not for the AANAPISI grant,” an APARC Facebook post read.
The post also includes a sample script to encourage students to call senators and ask them to support the FUTURE Act.
With help from APARC’s script, second-year biology major Trinity Vang called a senator about supporting the FUTURE Act. When she was new on campus, Vang participated in APARC’s peer mentorship program. She said APARC helped her find her place in the University community. Vang is currently president of a Hmong student group for women called Viivncaus.
“If we want more [people of color] in the University, why are we taking away funding for those programs?” Vang said. “We want to create a space and cultivate space for students, yet we’re constantly taking away funding from students of color.”
One of the challenges in this situation is that a lot of people in higher education are not aware of the AANAPISI designation, Her said. The program was officially established nationally in 2007, whereas many other minority-serving institution programs have been around for decades.
Her said he was disappointed with the potential cut in funds.
“As someone who was a student of color who went through college, I understand just how much resources mean and what that can really do to a student,” Her said. “I wouldn’t have been able to graduate college without all of that. I think it’s extremely important that there’s continued funding and that people are thinking about that.”
Clarification: APARC is the only University-run Asian American and Pacific Islander identity-based resource on campus.