TCUs seek equity in funding

Feb 11th, 2014 | By | Category: 25-4: Nation Building, Tribal College News
TCU EQUITY FUNDING

UNITED FRONT. TCU leaders from across Indian Country joined forces in an effort to secure funding and strike equity for tribal colleges.

Teams of tribal college and university (TCU) administrators and students fanned out across Capitol Hill on Tuesday and Wednesday, meeting with their respective senators and congressional representatives. Their efforts began with a joint meeting at the Senate Indian Affairs Committee chamber where the entire group spoke in a unified voice about longstanding problems that impact TCUs.

Students and administrators requested that Congress adopt a plan for equity in funding for TCUs. Although Congress designated TCUs as land-grant institutions in 1994, they receive only $4.4 million in federal monies compared to $300 million for state schools and $43.9 million for historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs). Inequity in research funding is even greater, with $1.8 million being afforded to TCUs compared to $243.7 million to state schools and $52.5 million to HBCUs. “No one is saying to take money away from state schools or from HBCUs; rather the issue is that tribal colleges are terribly underfunded,” stated one TCU president.

Each team of administrators and students also stressed the need to re-establish the TCU Adult Basic Education/GED Training Program, which Congress eliminated in 1994. Further, they called for forward funding from the Department of the Interior for all TCUs. Currently, Haskell Indian Nations University (Lawrence, KS), Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (Albuquerque, NM), United Tribes Technical College (Bismarck, ND), Navajo Technical University (Crownpoint, NM), and the Institute of American Indian Art (Santa Fe, NM) do not receive forward funding to ensure ongoing operations. With recent appropriations delays, these institutions are especially hard hit, noted one TCU president.

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium maintains that ultimately all of the aforementioned issues hinge on federal lawmakers recognizing the sovereignty of tribal nations and heeding the government’s trust responsibility to provide education as stipulated in federal treaties. Students and administrators stressed that the federal government should hold TCUs harmless from sequestration, budget cuts, and partisan politics.

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