As some of you know, I am extremely involved with the higher education campaign (especially in New York). The organizations I work with most, Save Our SUNY and New York Students Rising, focus on the public education systems in New York City and New York State. When I was at the White House AAPI Initiative briefing earlier this month, I asked the higher education panel about how the failures of America’s higher education institutes affect the APIA community. The response I mostly received was that “higher education is an American issue, not solely an Asian American issue”. 

I don’t think that’s right. As I replied back to the panel, the issues of college affordability, program cuts, financial aid, and the quality of the education we receive  is very much an APIA issue. By blanketing problems as “American problems”, the crucial factors of how race and ethnicity play into the situation are ignored.

Let’s think back on this year: we’ve had students deliberately not marking ‘Asian’ in order to get into college. We’ve had anti-affirmative action bake sales. We found out that Asians are statistically the most bullied in schools. Asian American studies programs are being cut nationwide. 

Speaking on what I know best, the fight to preserve funding for New York’s state schools is just as much about preserving an accessible education for communities of color. By raising tuition in an institution (City Universities of New York for example), blocks out potential students from low income communities. CUNY, which used to be free, was and is sometimes the only chance for people to go to college. The same can be said for California’s CSU system. 

Education is a right, not a privilege. It shouldn’t be something that we have to fight for, but reality shows that the road to education access is long and hard. We have great legislation like the DREAM Act that challenges existing notions of who “deserves” an education and fights for our people. 

So now let me turn this question to you: do you think higher education is purely an American issue? 

Open your eyes. Learn, get involved, and MOVE.

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