SAN FRANCISCO—SF State University has announced the $1.5 million program ASPIRE (Asian American and Pacific Islander Retention and Education) to assist low-income students, specifically, Asian American and Pacific Islanders. The 5-year program has been funded by the U.S. Department of Education Asian American & Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI).

Primary goals of the ASPIRE program are to improve the education environment, increase graduation and retention rates, and to better serve the Asian American and Pacific Islander students on campus. Grace Yoo, SF State’s Professor and Chair of the Asian American Studies indicated to the SF State News that the program will, “focus on addressing disadvantaged individuals’ needs in a number of key areas: academic barriers (writing and composition), non-cognitive skills gaps, financial pressures and learning disabilities and mental health challenges.” ASPIRE will achieve its goals through peer-mentorship, acknowledging student disabilities, and improving learning environments.

Of the 30,256 undergraduate and graduate students, 32.4 percent are Asian and .5 percent are Pacific Islander, making the combined ethnic groups the highest percentage of students on campus as indicated by the 2016 SF State University demographics report.

SF State 2016 student demographics.
SF State 2016 student demographics.

The origins of the program were a result of a need found in the classroom by professors of the College of Ethnic Studies. The department was first founded in 1969 and has since been a place for minority students to feel welcomed. According to the SF State News, professors acknowledged that the students’ needs for, “non-cognitive, or social and emotional, support continually emerged in and out of the classroom.” The development of ASPIRE also derived from the recognition of high need Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students; those of Southeast Asian heritage such as Cambodian, Laotian, Vietnamese, and Pacific Islander.

Grace Yoo, and Luoluo Hong, Vice President of Student Affairs and Enrollment Management will oversee the program.