University of Hawaiʻi receives $575,000 to become Lumina Foundation’s sixth Talent, Innovation, and Equity partner

With a racial and ethnic grouping that often gets folded into the broader success of the Asian community, Hawaiʻi has a strong history and command of data important to understanding the real storythe story of indigenous people often overlooked in every social sector. 

Hawaiʻi suffered from some of the harshest and steepest declines in employment nationwide when COVID brought state economies largely to a halt in 2020. Because its economy is built on tourism and hospitality, key industries were unable to provide residents with the economic resiliency needed to weather the major shifts brought on by the pandemic. 

And like national trends, low-income communities of color disproportionately felt the effects—which is the primary reason a broad-based coalition of Hawaiʻi leaders seeks major structural reform. These changes will position Native Hawai’ians, Pacific Islanders, and Filipinos to better access and succeed in post-high school learning opportunities, leading to jobs and careers with family-sustaining wages.  

The University of Hawaiʻi is Lumina Foundation’s sixth Talent, Innovation, and Equity (TIE) partner, awarding a $575,000 grant to pursue strategies to generate a 5-percentage point increase in attainment for Native Hawaiʻian, Pacific Islander, and Filipino students in four years. Currently, these learners earn a credential of value at half the state average rate. This ambitious TIE partnership goal signals that investing in native and indigenous communities through higher education is not only a moral imperative—but an urgent one, too.  

There are four strategies in this partnership with Lumina: 

  1. Develop statewide strategic planning for higher education with equity in outcomes at the center.
  2. Create a professional learning community for faculty to better teach and support students for success.
  3. Develop pathways to ensure high-quality short-term credentials seamlessly lead to further education opportunities in high-demand careers.
  4. Conduct an audit of policies and practices around basic needs to ensure learners aren’t set off their path by food, housing, or transportation insecurity.

Across all TIE states including Colorado, Tennessee, Oregon, Virginia, Massachusetts—and now Hawaiʻi—one thing is clear: an unequivocal conviction from leadership that equity gaps are borne by structural conditions, are unacceptable and unsustainable alongside a dedication of resources galvanizes momentum toward better educational opportunities and outcomes for all. 

When Hawaiʻi’s strategic approach to its TIE partnership ultimately succeeds, we will all be better served by a more inclusive and efficient system that promotes lifelong learning and thriving communities. 

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