Via Indian Country Today: Free College Tuition For Natives Threatened by Budget Knife

An excerpt:

Before he even considered going to college, Byron Tsabetsaye ruled it out.

While attending high school on the Navajo Nation, Tsabetsaye didn’t know anything about college applications, financial aid or selecting a major. An average student, Tsabetsaye said his teachers didn’t expect him to go to college, so he didn’t either.

“As a student on the reservation, it was hard to find support in terms of people encouraging me to go to college or telling me how to get there,” he said. “There just wasn’t the expectation, and so I limited myself and my views on higher education. I ruled it out because I thought my parents couldn’t afford it.”

Yet Tsabetsaye, the son of a homemaker and a Navajo Housing Authority employee, was destined for something greater. He was poised to become a first-generation college graduate, but he didn’t know where to start.

Then a friend introduced him to Fort Lewis College in Durango, Colorado.

Fort Lewis awards more bachelor’s degrees to Natives than any other college or university in the United States. Only one other institution, the University of Minnesota, Morris, offers free tuition to Native students.

Byron Tsabetsaye, a 2013 graduate of Fort Lewis College, is Navajo and Zuni. (Fort Lewis College)
Byron Tsabetsaye, a 2013 graduate of Fort Lewis College, is Navajo and Zuni. (Fort Lewis College)

Tsabetsaye enrolled and excelled. He served as student body president before graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English in 2013. He finished a Master of Arts degree in higher education and student affairs this spring at New York University, but he attributes his success to Fort Lewis.

“Looking back at myself, it seems almost impossible that I didn’t know about college opportunities,” he said. “At Fort Lewis College, it’s not just a tuition waiver but an opportunity for Natives to go to college.”

Fort Lewis offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines, including programs in science, technology and math, and it boasts more than 80 registered student organizations. With 162 tribes represented—including several from Alaska—it’s in the running for most diverse campus in the nation.

But this small liberal arts college perched atop a hill overlooking Durango is becoming a source of controversy for Colorado as the annual tuition tab increases. More than 1,100 Native students enrolled last year, comprising 30 percent of the total student population—and placing an unprecedented financial strain on the state.

Colorado last year paid 6 million in tuition for Native students at Fort Lewis, with 5 million of that for out-of-state students. The growing bill pits a century-old charter against contemporary questions of who should foot the bill.

To read the entire article, click here.

 

U.S. Departments of Education and Interior Announce Grant to Assist Pine Ridge School Recovery Efforts

WASHINGTON, D.C. – William Mendoza, Director of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education at the U.S. Department of Education, and Dr. Charles M. “Monty” Roessel, Director of the Bureau of Indian Education, today announced that the Pine Ridge School in South Dakota has received $218,000 at their request under the U.S. Department of Education’s Project School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant program to aid in recovery from student suicides and suicide attempts.

The Pine Ridge School, which serves the Oglala Sioux Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation, requested assistance after experiencing a significant increase in the number of counseling referrals, suicide ideations, and suicide attempts between August 2014 and April 2015.Two of the students who committed suicide were high school students and two were middle-school age.

“We are heartbroken about the tragic loss of life and are committed to working with the Pine Ridge community as it heals. These funds will help Pine Ridge School’s continued efforts to restore the learning environment in the face of these great tragedies.” said Mendoza. “This Administration is committed to supporting tribes in their work to meet the needs of their students. We all must do more to address the challenges across Indian Country.”

“Children and youth need help in seeing that their lives have meaning and that they, too, have the power to create promising futures for themselves. No tribe can long endure the loss of its lifeblood, its children and youth, to suicide,” said Roessel. “Thanks to the Department of Education and the SERV Program, the Pine Ridge School will be able to begin to help its students and their families onto healthier life paths that lead to more positive outcomes.”

In line with the Obama Administration’s Generation Indigenous (“Gen-I”) initiative to improve the lives of Native youth by removing the barriers for their progress and academic success, the SERV grant will support a culturally appropriate approach to the recovery of Native youth at Pine Ridge School. The grant will enable the Pine Ridge School to hire additional counselors and social workers to help students during the summer school session and the next school year. It also will support implementation of a multi-faceted and holistic approach to healing that is based on Lakota traditional culture and relevant to Pine Ridge School students, who have dealt with the sudden loss of classmates to suicide or know those who have attempted suicide.

To view the entire press release, click here.

U.S. Department of Education Announces $3 Million In Grants Available to Help Native Youth

The U.S. Department of Education today announced the availability of an estimated $3 million in grants to help Native American youth become college- and career-ready. Funding for the new Native Youth Community Projects is a key step toward implementing President Obama’s commitment to improving the lives of American Indian and Alaskan Native children. The new grants will support the President’s Generation Indigenous “Gen I” Initiative launched last year to help Native American youth.

“We know that tribes are in the best position to determine the needs and barriers that Native youth face,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The Native Youth Community Projects will allow tribal communities to come together to improve outcomes for students.”

In a Federal Register notice, the Department said it would award five to seven demonstration grants ranging from $400,000 to $600,000 to tribal communities before Sept. 30. The new program is based on significant consultation with tribal communities and recognizes that these communities are best-positioned to:

  • Identify key barriers to improving educational and life outcomes for Native youth, and
  • Develop and implement locally produced strategies designed to address those barriers.

Each grant will support a coordinated, focused approach chosen by a community partnership that includes a tribe, local schools and other optional service providers or organizations. For example, the program allows tribes to identify ways to achieve college and career readiness specific to their own communities – whether it’s early learning, language immersion or mental health services. Communities can tailor actions to address one or more of those issues. The success of these first projects will guide the work of future practices that improve the educational opportunities and achievement of preschool, elementary and secondary Indian students.

The President’s FY 2016 budget proposal calls for increased investments across Indian Country, including a total request of $20.8 billion for a range of federal programs that serve tribes – a $1.5 billion increase over the 2015-enacted level. The budget proposal includes $53 million for fiscal year 2016 – a $50 million increase from this year – to significantly expand the Native Youth Community Projects program.

For more on the Administration’s investment in Native American issues, visit https://www.whitehouse.gov/nativeamericans.

AIGC: Cobell Scholars Application Now Open

Here. An excerpt:

We are happy to announce the opening of the Cobell Scholars Program scholarship application. The American Indian Graduate Center will manage the Cobell Scholars Program which was established as a result of the Cobell v. Salazarlitigation.  The Cobell Scholars Program is intended to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students to defray the cost of attendance at both post-secondary vocational schools and institutions of higher education, including graduate and professional schools.

ELIGIBILITY: Scholarships in various amounts are awarded to U.S. Federally-recognized American Indian and Alaska Native community members (students) who are vocational certificate-seeking or associate, bachelor, graduate and professional degree-seeking students in full-time, accredited, non-profit institutions in the United States; and who are able to demonstrate financial need through the submission of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

A complete application will consist of:

  1. A completed General Application (deadline June 1); and,
  2. Completion of Cobell Scholars opportunity-specific questions (deadline June 1); and,
  3. Tribal Eligibility Certificate (due July 15) which is also available at aigcs.org in the Scholarships section titledOnline Application Instructions; and,
  4. Financial Needs Form(due July 15) which is also available at aigcs.org in the Scholarships section titled Online Application Instructions.

All eligible students are highly encouraged to complete the Cobell Scholars application for funding consideration. Take time to peruse the online application system as you may be eligible for other opportunities.

For more information and to apply, please visit aigcs.org, review the instructions and qualifications, then select “Apply/Check Status” on the right hand side of the page.

Applications for New Awards; State Tribal Education Partnership Program

On April 16, 2015, the Department of Education published in the Federal Register a notice inviting applications for the 2015 State Tribal Education Partnerships (STEP) program. The new competition officially opens on Thursday, April 16, 2015 and closes on June 15, 2015. Notices of intent to apply must be received by May 21, 2015. The purposes of this program are to: (1) Promote increased collaboration between tribal education agencies (TEAs) and the State educational agencies (SEAs) and local educational agencies (LEAs) that serve students from the affected tribes; and (2) build the capacity of TEAs to conduct certain administrative functions under certain Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) formula grant programs for eligible schools, as determined by the TEA, SEA, and LEA. The STEP program was first funded in FY 2012 and since then has incorporated final regulations into the new application.

You can see the full notice, with all of the requirements, here.  An excerpt:

3. Submission Dates and Times:

Applications Available: April 16, 2015.

Date of Pre-Application Webinar: April 30, 2015.

Deadline for Notice of Intent to Apply: May 21, 2015.

Deadline for Transmittal of Applications: June 15, 2015.

Deadline for Submission of Final Agreement: March 31, 2016.

Applications for grants under this competition must be submitted electronically using the Grants.gov Apply site (Grants.gov). For information (including dates and times) about how to submit your application electronically, or in paper format by mail or hand delivery if you qualify for an exception to the electronic submission requirement, please refer to section IV.