TCU’s Play Vital Role in Building Prosperity

Feb 15th, 2007 | By | Category: 18-3: Building Prosperity
By Gerald E. Gipp, Ph.D.

GERALD E. GIPPIn 1972, leaders of the first six tribally controlled colleges established the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to serve as their collective national voice and to provide technical assistance to them. Today, AIHEC represents 35 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) located in 13 states and one Canadian province. The colleges exist to provide access to culturally based higher education opportunities to American Indians and provide vitally needed community serves.

Annually, these institutions serve more than 27,000 full- and part-time academic students from over 250 federally recognized tribes.  While TCUs provide accredited college curricula, they also provide a variety of programs and services that strengthen tribal self-determination, revitalize native culture and languages, and develop community infrastructures.

TCUs are the most poorly funded institutions of higher education in the country.  Securing resources to adequately support the remarkable work of the TCUs is an ongoing challenge for AIHEC. As a small nonprofit organization with limited means, this is especially difficult and requires innovative strategies for leveraging and maximizing our staff and funding.

Together with the TCUs, AIHEC annually informs federal agencies and Congress about the colleges’ work and funding needs.  In 2007, as a result of the 2006 mid-term elections, many new legislators will be coming to Washington, DC.

As the 110th Congress convenes, AIHEC staff will again actively work to inform both the Legislative and Executive branches of government of the tremendous impact TCUs have on American Indians and their communities and their considerable funding needs.

For AIHEC and TCUs, building prosperity in Indian Country requires funds to maintain services and to pursue innovative strategies, and to leverage those funds into additional opportunities for their students.  Graduates of TCUs – as well as the colleges themselves – contribute to the overall economy of their communities, states, and the nation.

Even as we strive to keep up with the needs of the current AIHEC member institutions, other tribal colleges are emerging that will join in the business of collaborative higher education for American Indian students.  Currently, Red Lake Nation College in Minnesota, Ilisagvik College in Alaska, and the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribal College, Pawnee Nation College, and College of Muskogee Nation in Oklahoma have expressed interest in joining AIHEC in the near future.

You can help. As a reader of TCJ, you can contact your members of Congress and ask them to support tribal college initiatives.  For more information, write to

If you are a federal employee, you can contribute directly to AIHEC, which is now listed as an eligible organization in the Combined Federal Campaign.

We continue to be excited and hopeful about the successes and future of Tribal Colleges and Universities.  Thank you to all our readers and supporters for faithfully reading and sharing our stories.

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