TCU Leaders and Students Converge on Capitol Hill

Feb 10th, 2015 | By | Category: Online TC News, Tribal College News, Web Exclusive
AIHEC Board chair, Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, stresses the importance of advocacy to TCU students and administrators during their briefing session in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

AIHEC Board chair, Dr. Cynthia Lindquist, stresses the importance of advocacy to TCU students and administrators during their briefing session in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

The American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) held an intensive briefing session and workshop in preparation for its advocacy campaign this week in Washington, D.C. Students and administrators from 37 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) have traveled to the nation’s capital in an effort to secure funding and solidify support for American Indian higher education.

Since the 114th Congress was sworn in last month, there has been a great deal of uncertainty surrounding many programs, initiatives, and budget priorities. During the briefing session Monday, Joel Packer, executive director for the Committee for Education Funding, described the scene on Capitol Hill as “trench warfare,” as Republicans and Democrats have dug in deep and refuse to budge from their respective positions. AIHEC president and CEO, Carrie Billy (Diné), however, has expressed optimism, stressing that the TCU movement is non-partisan and has allies on both sides of the political aisle.

AIHEC will focus its advocacy campaign on three requests: 1.) Honor treaties and tribal sovereignty, stressing that Congress hold TCUs harmless from across-the-board budget cuts and possible sequestration. 2.) A two-part plan for equity in funding, which includes the adoption of a five-year plan to address long-term TCU inequities in federal programs and the assurance of equitable TCU participation in federal programs for institutions of higher education. 3.) Ensure ongoing operations by providing forward funding for five TCUs not so funded.

TCU representatives are meeting with congressional delegations from over 16 states on Tuesday and Wednesday. While administrators drive home AIHEC’s three requests, students describe how tribal higher education has impacted their lives and their communities. Facing an uncertain future and an embattled Congress, AIHEC has amassed its largest delegation to date, with over 150 students and administrators on hand to advocate on Capitol Hill.

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