President Obama speaking at My Brother’s Keeper townhall in July 2014. Center for Native American Youth Champion’s for Change in background. PHOTO Courtesy of Center for Native American Youth
WASHINGTON—The White House confirmed this morning that tribal colleges will be included in the community college initiative President Barack Obama will formally announce today at Pellissippi State Community College in Knoxville, Tennessee.
Under President Obama’s new proposal, students would be able to earn the first half of a bachelor’s degree, or earn the technical skills needed in the workforce — all at no cost to them.
The American Indian Higher Education Consortium, based in Alexandria, Virginia, was quick to praise President Obama for including the 37 tribal colleges in his proposed initiative.
“We will have to wait until the release of the President’s budget for details on how the program will work, but AIHEC is committed to working with the Administration and the Congress throughout the process to ensure that the first Americans – American Indians and Alaska Natives – are included in this “America’s Promise.” This is a landmark idea that will open new worlds of opportunity for thousands of American Indian young people, and as Tribal Colleges, we applaud the President’s leadership,” commented Carrie L. Billy, president of AIHEC to Native News Online Friday morning.
Tribal colleges are locally-based, tribally-driven institutions of higher education that award predominately 2-year associate degrees and certificates to American Indians and others throughout Indian Country. TCUs serve some of the poorest communities in this country (seven of the 10 poorest counties in the U.S. are home to a tribal college). More than 70 percent of our students are first generation college students and more than 70 percent receive Pell grants. These students will benefit tremendously from “America’s Promise.”
The American Indian College Fund, based in Denver, Colorado, was equally excited about the White House announcement of the inclusion of tribal colleges.
Cheryl Crazy Bull
“As the largest provider of scholarships for American Indian students at tribal colleges, the College Fund is excited about President Obama’s proposal to address the intertwined issues of access and affordability, this means that more students can go to college and through better financial support for them and their families, they can finish college and go on to gainful employment,” commented Cheryl Crazy Bull, president of the American Indian College Fund.
Related: President Obama to Propose Free Community College Education; Will His Plan Include Tribal Colleges?
“We are particularly pleased that this initiative will mean that more American Indians and Alaska Natives will be able to access – and most important, complete – a degree program in a field that will help our tribes grow their Native workforce. The initiative should also help address some of the huge unpaid tuition write-offs that TCUs incur every year. We have been trying to make a case for an increased focus on non-loan student financial support such as scholarships and tuition aid because of huge shortfall in American Indian student financial support and the detrimental impact this has on TCUs and tribal communities. Financial stress is the greatest deterrent to successful completion at our colleges, and the cost is high, both financially and in terms of completion and graduation rates. We are excited that the White House is taking an initial leadership role in helping to address student need,” Billy continued.