New Mexico Higher Ed Collaborates with TCUs

Oct 15th, 2008 | By | Category: 20-2: Native Green, Tribal College News

The New Mexico Higher Education Department (NMHED) met with four tribal colleges for a Tribal College Summit in June 2008. The group discussed how to better partner with the state of New Mexico’s education initiatives to serve American Indian students more successfully.

The four tribal colleges that participated were the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA, Santa Fe, NM), the Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute (SIPI, Albuquerque, NM), Navajo Technical College (NTC, Crownpoint, NM), and Diné College (DC, Tsaile, AZ and Shiprock, NM). Also attending were representatives of the New Mexico Indian Affairs Department and the Indian Education Advisory Council.

New Mexico is the only state where “underrepresented minorities” are the majority. NMHED Secretary Reed Dasenbrock, Ph.D., says that New Mexico’s record at equity in educational attainment is the best in the nation.

Both Hispanic and Native American students enter higher education in the state at rates very close to their proportion in the population, and they obtain associate’s degrees and technical certificates at the same (or close to) proportional rate, according to Dasenbrock. Native Americans, however, do not go on to four-year colleges and universities at the rate they should, nor are they earning bachelor’s degrees at a rate proportional to their share of the population. Consequently, the state is concerned.

Dasenbrock says it is important to build bridges between the state’s higher educational institutions and the four tribal colleges. Some forms of state financial aid are available to New Mexicans attending tribal colleges. Collaborative work is needed to expand the students’ awareness of these programs and information on how they can transfer to bachelor’s degree programs.

The state of New Mexico and the tribal colleges are already sharing data about student achievement, but data systems need to be more compatible and user friendly. “All New Mexico students need to know that college is a possibility for them. NMHED is committed to an outreach effort to all students to increase their awareness of the options available to them,” Dasenbrock says.

Students can’t learn without facilities for them to learn. Tribal colleges are challenged to find the capital monies to build their campuses. In response, the New Mexico Legislature has in the past funded capital projects at all of the tribal colleges through General Obligation bonds, Severance Tax Bonds, and General Fund dollars.

The November General Obligation Bond package, for instance, includes $500,000 for IAIA to help construct its science, technology, art, and cultural center. But the TCUs have never been part of the formal process used by educational institutions in the state to propose projects to NMHED.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson has said the state must recognize tribal sovereignty and the independence of their decision making while at the same time engaging in government-to-government dialogue. Tribal institutions are government agencies that can and should receive state support, just as municipalities and counties, according to the official administration policy. Consequently, this year the tribal colleges are eligible to be included in the NMHED capital outlay process and recommendations, formalizing what has become practice.

During the summit, all the parties committed themselves to working out a new memorandum of understanding delineating mutual commitments and understandings. The organizer of the summit was NMHED Educational Equity and Access Director Matthew J. Martinez. He is a former member of the tribal council of Ohkay Owingeh. He has taught at the University of New Mexico and IAIA, and he just received his Ph.D. at the University of Minnesota in American Studies.

In August, Secretary Dasenbrock and Martinez, along with NMHED Director of Financial Aid Tashina Banks-Moore and Director of Communications Laura J. Mulry visited both Diné College in Shiprock and Navajo Technical College to further collaboration.

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