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New Study Details College Cost Barriers for Indigenous Students


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 postsecondary education, which comes at a high cost to tribal communities. Jobs paying 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, then they often are unable to return to their tribal communities to give back, which we know they want to do," Crazy Bull explained.

The report recommended continued investment by governments and the private sector in scholarship organizations such as the College Fund, tuition support and supportive partnerships. South Dakota, Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota and Montana now offer tuition-waiver programs to Native American students from any state.

Crazy Bull pointed out 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," Crazy Bull noted. "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% graduation rate for all other students. Lifetime earnings are much higher for people with college degrees, and Crazy Bull pointed to one study, which found graduates also score better on multiple quality-of-life indicators.

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

Disclosure: The American Indian College Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Education, and Native American Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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