Senator Franken visits LLTC

Feb 25th, 2013 | By | Category: 24-3: The Science of Place, Tribal College News
By Kyle Erickson
LLTC STUDENTS JOIN FRANKEN FANS. From left: Robert Jaspers, Al Boswell, Lucas Bratvold, Sen. Al Franken, Veronica Kingbird, and Jonas Northbird.

LLTC STUDENTS JOIN FRANKEN FANS. From left: Robert Jaspers, Al Boswell, Lucas Bratvold, Sen. Al Franken, Veronica Kingbird, and Jonas Northbird.

Senator Al Franken, D-MN, made his first visit to the Leech Lake Tribal College (LLTC, Cass Lake, MN) campus, and came away impressed by what he saw. Franken toured the college campus, spent time in a history class talking about the role of government and answering student questions, and chatted with students in the LLTC Learning Center.

While the overall tone of the visit was positive and upbeat, it was clear that Franken is serious about understanding the challenges facing a unique institution such as LLTC. Franken also visited with LLTC’s president, Dr. Don Day, to talk about the college’s plans for future growth and about what resources are needed to turn that vision into reality.

According to Day, foremost among those challenges is finding a way to provide adequate operational funding. The legislation providing funding for tribal colleges authorizes $8,000 per full-time Native American student, but funding for the most recent academic year amounted to about $5,280 per student–33% below the authorized level. This funding gap will amount to about $800,000 for the current academic year, and it creates significant challenges in retaining both students and staff. In addition, LLTC receives no state operating funds, and no funding from any source for non-Native students, who comprise about 10% of its student body.

“You guys are underfunded, there’s no doubt about that,” Franken said. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, such an issue is right in Franken’s area of interest, and he is hopeful that the funding disparity can be addressed.

Despite funding obstacles, LLTC continues to grow and find success. On the senator’s campus tour, LLTC Student Senate officers showed off some recent accomplishments, including a first-place trophy from a rocketry competition sponsored by the Wisconsin Space Grant Consortium, and a firstplace prize from the 2012 AIHEC Critical Inquiry competition, in which a group of LLTC students presented research on the tribal blood-quantum issue.

“We are absolutely delighted that our Senator took the time to visit our campus,” Day said. “I think he will better understand the value of tribal colleges by being here with us.”

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