Financial and Moral Support Keys to Success

Nov 8th, 2015 | By | Category: 27-2: American Indian Law
By Rachael Marchbanks

As winter break approaches, students everywhere are working to finish up the semester. Those who are seeking to go to college, to transfer between colleges, or to begin a master’s program are working against additional deadlines for college applications, college readiness exams, the FAFSA form, and scholarship submissions.

These steps can be daunting to say the least, especially for American Indians who face more challenges than any other group in the nation. Native students often juggle much more responsibility than the average college student. Many are helping to support their own families while taking on the burden of school. Additionally, with a poverty rate of almost 30% according to the U.S. Census, most will need substantial financial aid. Yet, more Native people are obtaining a college education than ever before and many are the first in their families to do so. How is this possible? Access to affordable higher education and support (both financial and moral) are key elements.

“I would not have made it through without the support of my family and without their prayers,” says a Diné friend when sharing the story of her college experience. The eldest of five and the first in her family to attend college, her parents looked to her to lead the way. A TRIO program director at her high school helped her navigate various college and scholarship applications, but it was her own determination and focus that kept her on task. Once she got to college, the continued support of her family helped her steer clear of distractions. After putting herself through school, she helped her siblings do the same and now all five of them have a four-year degree and successful careers.

The tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) give students a pathway towards achieving their education and career goals. TCUs are often located closer to home than other colleges and offer access to a quality higher education that is grounded in tribal culture. The cost of attendance is significantly lower than average, even though the TCUs themselves receive much less per-student funding than state or private institutions of higher learning. These fully accredited schools maintain 84 campuses that serve approximately 20,000 students from 250 different tribes and provide services for an additional 80,000 community members every year. They achieve so much with so little. It’s no wonder they’ve been called “underfunded miracles.”

We too can help these students by supporting the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the tribal colleges, and the American Indian College Fund, whose combined efforts make the dream of a higher education possible for those who couldn’t otherwise afford it.

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