IAIA Faces Uncertain FutureAug 15th, 1995 | By tcj | Category: 7-2: Agriculture, Tribal College News
Friends of the Institute for American Indian Arts succeeded in rescuing the college in Santa Fe, N.M., from closing its doors last summer, but they convinced Congress to provide funds for only one year.
At press time the conference committee had not met to make the final decision. IAIA President Perry Horse expected Congress to provide $5.5 million for the 1996 federal fiscal year that began Oct. 1, down from $9.7 million the previous year. Horse credits three lawmakers for saving the college from zero funding: U.S. Rep. Joe Skeen (R-N.M.) and U.S. Senators Pete Dominici (R-N.M.) and Don Young (R-AK). The college has dismissed 40 percent of its staff and reduced students from 250 to 160.
Of the 30 Indian colleges in the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, IAIA is unique. It was operated by the Bureau of Indian Affairs until 1988 when Congress made it a congressionally chartered institution under a board of trustees, which includes several powerful Republican members of Congress. Horse says IAIA received nearly 100 percent of its operating funds from Congress. Horse, who has been college president for a year, says he believes the school fell victim to Congress’s zeal to cut the budget and its antipathy toward the arts. He said the school has also suffered from public criticism from disgruntled employees. “I don’t think it was the intent of Congress to fund the school perpetually, but the abruptness came as a surprise,” Horse says.
Congressional critics said the school cost too much per student, but Horse says the school is also required to run a museum and the Center for Research and Cultural Exchange. A previous Congress designated the center as the repository for Native language materials but had never provided funds to implement it. A large portion of the budget goes to paying the extremely high rent typical of the Santa Fe area.
Horse hopes Congress will reconsider and keep the school open after this year. IAIA is studying charging tuition for Indian students, further streamlining its base operation, and cooperating more with the Community College of Santa Fe for parttime instructors, Horse says. The Center for Research and Cultural Exchange has been virtually eliminated.
The college had plans to reduce its dependence upon Congress for operating funds, raising $700,000 privately to use as an endowment and $6 million from Congress last year toward building its own campus on 140 acres, which were donated in 1988.