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Cost Biggest Barrier for Native Nebraska Students

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Tuesday, September 6, 2022   

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

Angelique Albert - CEO of the Native Forward Scholars Fund - said the data show that scholarship providers have a role to play to shield native students from taking on so much debt. Jobs that pay enough to repay loans and support a family are in short supply.

"And when you look at that college-going experience for our native students, most of them leave college with debt," said Albert. "How do you set yourself up for success when you have such staggering debt?"

The report's recommendations include continued investment by governments and the private sector in scholarship organizations such as the Native Forward, tuition support, and supportive partnerships.

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

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

Lifetime earnings are much higher for people with college degrees, and Cheryl Crazy Bull - president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund - pointed to one study that found that 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."

Nearly three in four good-paying Nebraska jobs will require at least some postsecondary education by 2027.

Albert 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 native students who are the first in their family to attend college.

"That's why we provide wrap-around services," said Albert. "And we have one-on-one counseling, and support for those students to help inform them on processes that they may not be aware of."

Support for this reporting was provided by Lumina Foundation.




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