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Cost Biggest Barrier for Native Americans to Complete Degrees


Monday, August 22, 2022   

The biggest obstacle facing indigenous students completing college degrees is cost, according to a collaborative study by the National Native Scholarships Providers.

Cheryl Crazy Bull - president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund - said students frequently take on debt to pay for post-secondary education, which comes at a high cost to tribal communities.

Jobs that pay enough for graduates to repay their loans and support their families are in short supply in Indian Country.

"And if students have to take on considerable debt in order to afford to go to college," said Crazy Bull, "then they often are unable to return to their tribal communities to give back, which we know they want to do."

The report recommends continued investment by governments and the private sector in scholarship organizations such as the College Fund, tuition support, and supportive partnerships.

Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana and South Dakota now offer tuition-waiver programs to Native American students from any state.

Six out of seven occupations identified by the Wyoming Department of Employment as those most in demand require some form of post-secondary education.

Crazy Bull said getting more high schools to encourage students to fill out the federal Financial Aid Form, which is required by many colleges before releasing need-based scholarships and grants, also can help more indigenous students tap resources.

"Many of our students still are first-generation students," said Crazy Bull. "So they don't have any experience with college, so they don't know how to go about accessing resources for college."

Just 36% of indigenous students enrolled in four-year colleges in 2014 completed degrees in six years, compared with a 60 percent graduation rate for all other students.

Lifetime earnings are much higher for people with college degrees, and Crazy Bull pointed to one study that found that indigenous graduates also score better on multiple quality-of-life indicators.

"Their well-being characteristics were excellent," said Crazy Bull. "So I think not only is it about earnings and a career pathway, but it's also about a better quality of life generally."

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