American Indians face many unique challenges to getting a college degree or education. The result is that few American Indians enter college and graduate. Just look at the facts:
- Native youth face some of the lowest high school graduation rates nationwide.
- Only 1% of American Indians are enrolled in colleges and universities today.
- Natives have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Only 13.6% of American Indian and Alaska Natives earned a college degree, compared to 28% of other racial groups.
With more than 40% of the Native population under age 18, the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund), a 501(c)(3) organization, is working to help all Native people meet their full potential by providing them with access to a higher education. But I know from experience that financial support is not enough. Once students are enrolled in an institution of higher learning, the College Fund must also provide them with the tools, programs, and support they need to succeed and graduate.
In my 35-year career as an educator, my work is inspired by the vision of the founders of the tribal college movement born in the Civil Rights era. Tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) are accredited post-secondary institutions. These unique institutions were created by and for Native people and provide opportunities to learn Native languages, culture, and history, while providing degree, certificate, and diploma programs. TCUs are located on or near American Indian reservations, giving Native people greater access to a quality education.
When I attend a graduation at a TCU, I see young people who came to college just out of high school, graduates who came with a GED, and older students who spent years pursuing their degrees while working and raising a family. The diversity of the students we serve is amazing—students just like those you might see every day in your families and communities.
We have a record of more than 25 years of success in recruiting and supporting students in higher education. Thanks to your support, we provide students with the tools they need to succeed in school so they can look forward to a future of prosperity for themselves, their families, and their communities.
Pilamayayapi, thank you, for your friendship,
Wacinyanpi Win (They Depend on Her)
Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota)
President, American Indian College Fund