Navajo Pass Landmark Law Supporting Colleges

Nov 15th, 2004 | By | Category: 16-2: Tribal College Research, Tribal College News

HISTORIC MOMENT. Gathered to watch Navajo Nation President Joe Shirley, Jr., sign the legislation were (left to right) Kathrine Benally (Navajo Nation Council Education Committee); Vikky Shirley (first lady of the Navajo Nation); Ferlin Clark (Diné College president); Leland Leonard (director of Diné Education); Clinton Jim (Diné College Board of Regents member); and Dr. Phillip Bluehouse (president of Diné College Board of Regents). Photo by Ed McCombs

The Navajo Nation Council passed a historic education bill in July that will allot $7.2 million annually for the next 20 years to Diné College, the Crownpoint Institute of Technology (CIT), and the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance.

“It was a bold move by those who voted for it,” says Ferlin Clark (Diné), president of Diné College in Tsaile, AZ. Beginning in fiscal year 2006, the law will provide $4.2 million each year to Diné College, $1.5 million to CIT in Crownpoint, NM, and $1.5 million to the scholarship office.

“This should be a model for other tribes if they believe in higher education,” says CIT President Jim Tutt (Diné). He credited the efforts of Clark, CIT Vice President Elmer Guy (Diné), the council, and the president. “We all have to work together for the student,” he says.

The tribal funding will not be adequate to support the colleges by itself, Tutt says. However, by demonstrating their support for higher education, the Navajo Nation will help the tribal colleges to leverage support from other sources, such as the federal government, according to Tutt. It will also help allay the fears of the accrediting agency, which always wants to see evidence of long-term financial support.

The tribal scholarships will also benefit the two tribal colleges. Although many of the scholarship winners will attend other universities, some will enroll at the tribal colleges. The Diné Higher Education Grant Fund bill faced heavy debate but ultimately passed by a vote of 58-14, according to the Navajo Times.

Tribal colleges and universities depend upon annual appropriations from the U.S. Congress for their basic institutional support. The levels of support vary from year to year, making planning difficult. Many years the colleges do not receive their federal support until well into the school year because of Congress’s continuing resolutions.

Tribal governments’ financial support for their colleges also usually varies from year to year and cannot represent a major source of income. With the exception of [New Mexico] and Arizona, few states provide any financial support for tribal colleges or tribal college students.

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