TCUs Offer American Indians/Alaska Natives Debt-free Opportunities for Higher Education Access and Success

Jul 21st, 2014 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive

Alexandria, VA – In response to a report released by the Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) on federal student loans and community colleges, the nation’s tribal colleges and universities, which collectively are the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, reiterate remarks issued earlier this week by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC).

More than 75 percent of students enrolled at TCUs are Pell Grant recipients. The very real threat of losing Pell Grant eligibility is a major reason that most TCUs do not participate in the federal student loan program. As noted by AACC, the report minimizes the degree to which the potential loss of Pell Grant eligibility for current and future students (based on the lack of loan repayment by a small fraction of former students) impacts a college’s decision on whether or not to participate in the federal loan program. This is an even greater concern for small institutions, like tribal colleges, which could have only a handful of loan recipients.

Until federal policy is changed to decouple the student loan program and Pell Grant eligibility, most tribal colleges will opt not to participate in loan programs because the risk of losing Pell Grant eligibility for thousands of American Indian students is just too great. Instead, TCUs choose to make higher education affordable and accessible through very low tuition rates and comprehensive support systems. Our institutions do more with less so that our students can spend less and achieve more.

Unfortunately, the report provides an incomplete picture and suggests that without federal student loans students are deprived of the opportunity to access and complete post-secondary education programs. On its website TICAS’ tagline states: “working to make higher education more available and affordable for people of all backgrounds.” This is precisely what TCUs are doing throughout Indian Country. We are open enrollment, public institutions that provide access to high quality post-secondary education opportunities to reservation residents, both Native and non-Native, at an affordable cost so that our students can graduate without the financial burden of repaying student loans – federal or private.

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