Dr. Elmer J. Guy, President of Navajo Technical University
WASHINGTON — When President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama announced a new initiative to increase college opportunity for low-income and disadvantaged students at the White House on Thursday, January 16, 2014, Navajo Technical University President Dr. Elmer J. Guy was in attendance.
The summit began with remarks from President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. After each address, Dr. Guy and the 85 other college and university officials in attendance broke into work sessions to develop ideas and strategies to serve low-income students by working with state governments and local communities, as well as strengthening partnerships with K-12 schools.
Of the 85 representatives – which included the presidents from Princeton, Georgetown, and Yale – Dr. Guy was the only representative from a tribal college and university in attendance.
“They wanted input from colleges and universities in increasing access to low income students and helping them graduate, and I told them that if you want to make an impact, minority serving institutions will deliver,“ explained Dr. Guy.
Navajo Technical University is one of the most effective minority serving institutions of higher learning in the United States, in spite of operating in a landscape that contains a poverty rate near 40 percent. Because of it’s success serving low-income and disadvantaged students, especially in terms of retention and graduation rates, NTU received visits the past two years from Secretary Duncan and Second Lady Jill Biden
“It was good to be invited because they’re recognizing our presence,” stated Dr. Guy. “It helped remind people that we do have native communities and a lot of our students come from low-income households.”
With his participation, Dr. Guy stated that he’d like to leverage the experience to not only better NTU’s commitment to serving disadvantaged students, but branching out and working with other tribal colleges and universities to tackle the problem.
“I made a commitment to increase enrollment amongst low-income students as well as enrollment in the STEM fields at our institution by 25 percent,” Dr. Guy said. “I also told the coordinator of the event that we’d be glad to host an additional meeting that focused on Native American Indian students by including all of the other tribal colleges and universities and their respective leaders.”
Navajo Technical University is the first university on the Navajo Nation and has sites in Crownpoint, NM, Chinle, AZ, and Teec Nos Pos, AZ. NTU was approved to operate as university in August of 2013, and currently offers one master’s degree, eight baccalaureate degrees, 15 associate degrees, and 19 technical and vocational certificates.