May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. In 2007, Congress created the Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI) program, which offers grants and resources to eligible schools.
Institutions with the AANAPISI designation must have a student body of at least 10% Asian American and Native American Pacific Islanders, among other requirements.
Student Loan Hero researchers explored which AANAPISIs in the U.S. are the most affordable. Of the 97 AANAPISIs in the U.S. with available data, the 25 with the lowest annual tuition costs are all in California.
- The percentage of Asian and Pacific Islander college students is growing.3% of college students were Asian or Pacific Islander in 2018, up from 6.3% in 2010, according to the latest available data from the National Center for Education Statistics.
- The 25 most affordable AANAPISIs are in California. Cosumnes River College in Sacramento and Folsom Lake College in Folsom — both community colleges — are the most affordable AANAPISIs, with in-state tuition of $1,104 a year.
- Among the 25 most affordable AANAPISIs, only four are four-year colleges. The most affordable four-year public AANAPISI is Cypress College, a California school that is generally considered a community college, but offers a bachelor’s degree in funeral service. In-state tuition is $1,142 a year.
- The three least affordable AANAPISIs are also in California. The three four-year private schools at the bottom of Student Loan Hero’s list are the University of San Francisco ($50,282 a year for tuition), University of the Pacific in Stockton ($49,588 a year) and Saint Mary’s College of California in Moraga ($49,188 a year).
AANAPISI is a designation under the broader federal Minority-Serving Institutions (MSI) program. In addition to AANAPISIs, the other MSI designations are:
- Alaska Native-Serving Institutions and Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNH)
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
- Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs)
- Native American-Serving Nontribal Institutions (NASNTIs)
- Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs)
- Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)
The AANAPISI program was developed to enhance higher education access to and visibility for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students, particularly those from low-income households.
AANAPISIs receive grants and similar assistance for projects that improve the experience of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students attending their colleges. Institutions must meet the program’s eligibility requirements:
- At least 10% Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students included undergraduate enrollment
- At least 50% of students receive financial aid from the Federal Pell Grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), Federal Work-Study or Federal Perkins Loan
Institutions must submit a request for AANAPISI designation every year before the deadline. If the designation request is approved, AANAPISIs can then apply for grant funding.
The designation can support AANAPISIs in multiple ways, from campus enhancements and faculty development to targeted student services. Grant funding can be used toward projects including:
- Lab and educational equipment
- Library and classroom improvements
- Financial and economic literacy counseling
- Tutoring programs
- Student support services
- AANAPISI research and data collection
- Faculty fellowships
- Community outreach
The list of schools in Student Loan Hero’s study includes those that are current AANAPISI grant recipients and those that are eligible to apply for AANAPISI funding. Funding isn’t automatic based on AANAPISI designation, and just because an institution didn’t receive a grant in the most recent award year doesn’t mean it isn’t AANAPISI-designated.
Including current program grantees as well as schools eligible for AANAPISI funding offers a clearer perspective about which schools generally serve underrepresented students of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander heritage.
Although the AANAPISI program was designed as racial equity legislation through higher ed institutions, it offers insight for college-bound students in other ways. The AANAPISI designation can help students understand which campuses are diverse and offer student services tailored to experiences unique to these communities.
Of the 25 lowest-cost AANAPISIs, all of them are in California. Cosumnes River College in Sacramento and Folsom Lake College tie for the most affordable AANAPISIs in the U.S. In-state tuition at these two schools is $1,104 a year.
In-state tuition is notably low in California, with 24 of the 25 most affordable AANAPISIs charging less than $2,000 a year for in-state tuition and fees. Many of these institutions are public two-year colleges that are also considered eligible schools under the California College Promise Grant, which waives enrollment fees for eligible residents.
The three four-year AANAPISIs among the most affordable offer one bachelor’s degree program in an otherwise community college academic environment. The programs for these four-year AANAPISIs (along with their ranking) are:
- Funeral service at Cypress College (fourth)
- Health information management at San Diego Mesa College (seventh)
- Biomanufacturing at Solano Community College in Fairfield (12th)
The AANAPISI rounding out the top 25 most affordable list is Grace Mission University in Fullerton, a four-year private seminary.
On the opposite side of the rankings, the 25 least affordable AANAPISIs are more geographically scattered, though eight are in California.
Seventeen AANAPISIs on the least-affordable list are four-year private schools. At the high end is the University of San Francisco, with tuition at a sizable $50,282.
The data aligns with the disparity between public and private school tuition. In the 2020-21 academic year, tuition at four-year, in-state public institutions is $10,560, on average, compared with $37,650 at four-year private, nonprofit institutions. This is an important distinction as you consider what level of student loan debt you’ll have after graduation.
Outside of California, the remainder of the top 25 least-expensive AANAPISIs are predominantly in the Northeast, with a few in the Midwest, West and South.
AANAPISIs are granted this federal designation based on a minimum percentage of Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students in their undergraduate population, as well as students considered low-income based on their participation in eligible federal student aid programs. Since these institutions are minority-serving schools, it’s possible to find a school with eligibility across multiple MSI designations.
For example, more than 40 of the AANAPISIs also qualify as HSIs. Some of the schools that are eligible under both include:
- California State University, Fullerton
- CUNY City College in New York
- San Diego State University
- University of Houston
When choosing an AANAPISI, be aware that you’re selecting a school based on factors like its diverse student representation and ability to enhance minority higher ed success through targeted resources, rather than broadly seeking an Asian-specific school.
“Attending a school with a large AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Islander] student population may be attractive, but you might also be looking for one with community-oriented programs on campus that will improve your college experience,” says Andrew Pentis, senior student loan writer at Student Loan Hero.
Pentis suggested the following steps to start your search for an AANAPISI:
- Talk with your counselor: As early as high school, students can speak to their guidance counselor about their interest in attending an AANAPISI. Students and their families can also search online for the full list of AANAPISI schools. “This way, you can learn more about schools’ enrollment demographics and see where campuses are located, whether you’re intent on staying close to home and scoring an in-state tuition rate or leaving home behind and attending a school on the coast,” Pentis says.
- Add your selected AANAPISIs to your college list: In addition to noting figures for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander enrollment, you can also compare location, in-state versus out-of-state tuition and other general statistics, like graduation rates. Comparing AANAPISIs against each other, as well as non-AANAPISI schools, can help you find the right institution based on factors that matter to you.
- Ask AANAPISIs about federal funding they’ve received: See whether the school has secured government grants to provide enhanced resources and opportunities for Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander students. “Unfortunately, not all AANAPISIs receive federal funding, or enough of it,” Pentis says. “So as you get further along in the process, put campus admissions and financial aid offices to the test: Ask them if they’re receiving federal support and, in turn, can really support students like you.”
Concerning MSIs in general, Pentis adds a valuable note.
“MSIs tend to be more affordable than the average school, and they’re known to have strong student culture, but don’t leave any stones unturned in your college search,” Pentis says. And when you’ve found your school of choice, “ensure it meets your criteria, and also investigate whether it’s an affordable option that will connect you with more gift aid than student loans.”
He suggests choosing an AANAPISI in your home state instead of a school far from home with higher tuition or a less appealing financial aid offer.