Montana Decision Termed a “Miracle”

Aug 15th, 1995 | By | Category: 7-2: Agriculture, Tribal College News

The Montana Legislature has agreed to pay tribal colleges part of the costs for educating non-Indian students. The decision was described as a “miracle” by Fort Peck Community College President James Shanley, who said it had failed twice in the past. Shanley credited the lawmakers’ decision largely to the political savvy of one man–Salish Kootenai College President Joseph McDonald.

For the tribal colleges in Montana, the legislation will result in a total of $1.4 million in state funds over two years, with a maximum of $1500 per student per year. The state provides more–$2300 per student–per year to the non-Indian community colleges.

Only two other states–South Dakota and Nebraska–help pay the costs of non-Indian students at tribal colleges. Since the federal government helps support only the Indian students at the tribal colleges, the colleges must subsidize the costs for educating non-Indians. The only money the tribal colleges receive for the non-Indians is tuition, and regulations restrict what can be charged. Nevertheless, because the non-Indians in their communities live far away from other institutes of higher education, the tribal colleges have felt an obligation to serve them, McDonald says. In Montana five of the seven tribal colleges have non-Indian students.

McDonald said although the bill will provide funding for only two years, they hope to make it a permanent part of the state funding cycle in the future.

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