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DENVER — Overall Native student enrollment dropped in the fall of 2020 according to data collected by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) and the National Student Clearinghouse. Overall student enrollment at tribal colleges and universities (TCU) enrollment is down by 1 percent with an 11 percent drop in freshman enrollment according to AIHEC; the National Student Clearinghouse data show a 23 percent decrease in freshman enrollment among Native students at all colleges and universities throughout the country. 

 “Our students, their families, and their community cannot afford to take a step backwards in education attainment,” Cheryl Crazy Bull said to Native News Online. “TCUs offer Native students an opportune for an affordable, culturally focused higher education alongside restorative traditional practices to help them and their families through the pandemic.” 

Although data show declining numbers among TCUs and Native student enrollment, the decrease in student enrollment is much higher at community colleges with a 9.5 percent drop nationally according to Forbes Magazine. The decrease in enrollment at community colleges is attributed to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with lower income and underrepresented students from marginalized communities. 

Undergraduate enrollment at public colleges, the only type of institution that collects racial and ethnic data, declined for all student groupings. However, Native American student enrollment decreased the most with a loss of 12.5 percent according to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. 

The National Student Clearinghouse Research Center is the research arm of the National Student Clearinghouse. The Research Center collects data from nearly 3,600 postsecondary institutions, which represent 97 percent of the nation’s postsecondary enrollments in degree-granting institutions, as of 2018.

“Education institutions, high schools and policymakers will need to work together to help bring back the learners who are struggling during the pandemic and recession,” Doug Shapiro, executive director, National Student Clearinghouse Research Center said to Forbes Magazine. 

Native American students interested in attending college who are seeking a scholarship from the American Indian College Fund have an additional incentive to apply this year—the College Fund is offering $20 gift cards for every student that completes an application by April 30 Crazy Bull said. “The incentive is being offered to increase Native student enrollment in at tribal colleges and universities and to encourage students to continue their education goals uninterrupted, despite the pandemic,” she said. 

Current Native tribal college students not receiving a College Fund scholarship, current American Indian College Fund scholarship recipients who are re-applying for scholarship funds and are attending tribal colleges, and Native high school students seeking to enroll at a tribal college are all eligible to apply. Eligible applicants must complete their applications online here to qualify for the $20 gift card incentive.

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About The Author
Author: Darren Thompson
Darren Thompson (Lac du Flambeau Ojibwe) is a freelance journalist and based in the Twin Cities of Minnesota, where he also contributes to Unicorn Riot, an alternative media publication. Thompson has reported on political unrest, tribal sovereignty, and Indigenous issues for the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network, Indian Country Today, Native News Online, Powwows.com and Unicorn Riot. He has contributed to the New York Times, the Washington Post, and Voice of America on various Indigenous issues in international conversation. He has a bachelor’s degree in Criminology & Law Studies from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.