Oakton to Receive Grant to Serve Minority Students

(Oct. 22, 2020) Oakton College will bolster efforts to support underrepresented populations thanks to the $1.5 million Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Oakton is the first community college in Illinois to receive this award.

The AANAPISI is one of eight federally designated Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) programs. MSIs are defined as institutions of higher education that serve minority populations. They are unique both in mission and day-to-day operations, with priorities that include increasing awareness of educational inequalities, and communicating and sharing programs and resources to ensure more Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) students enroll in and complete college. Oakton’s fall 2020 enrollment consists of nearly 25 percent AAPI students.

“Illinois has the fifth largest AAPI population in the nation, and we are honored that Oakton has been selected as an AANAPISI institution, recognizing the large breadth of diversity with our student population,” Oakton President Joianne Smith, Ph.D., says. “This designation is a recognition of who we are, and is about more than enrollment — it’s about outcomes. This milestone validates our commitment to diversity and aligns with our aspiration to be a leader for inclusive excellence.”

AAPI students are a heterogeneous population that vary widely on the educational attainment pipeline and face educational barriers to achieve academic success. In a recent report with recommendations for improving data collection on AAPIs, the Washington D.C. based Institute for Higher Education Policy stated that information that has been divided into detailed sub-categories (on AAPI students) can illuminate where inequities exist and persist. By neglecting to separate data into separate categories and perpetuating invisibility in data collections, policymakers at all levels — federal, state, and institutional — will continue to fail and disenfranchise AAPI students across the country.

In addition, the grant allows Oakton to establish the Center for Organizing Minority Programs to Advance Student Success (COMPASS). COMPASS seeks to improve success rates by engaging students in high-impact activities designed to increase engagement and help them make informed decisions regarding course and program design. Activities will include providing culturally relevant academic advising for AAPI students, partnering with local high schools to improve early college persistence and implementing faculty training and development programs.

Through the grant, Oakton also will collect data allowing the College to respond to the unique needs of AAPIs subgroups most in need of attention and resources.

For more information about the grant, contact Edwin Chandrasekar, vice president for administrative affairs, at echandra@oakton.edu, or Kelly Iwanaga Becker, assistant vice president for institutional effectiveness and strategic planning, at kbecker@oakton.edu.