Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund is the nation’s largest Native-led and serving charity supporting Native student access to higher education. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provides American Indian and Alaska Native students with scholarships and program support, ensuring they have the tools to graduate and succeed in their chosen careers.
The College Fund also supports 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), most of which are chartered by tribal governments and are located on or near Indian reservations.
The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities in the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)
For over 50 years, tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) have provided a path for American Indian students to access a higher education grounded in Native cultures and traditions, providing them with the opportunity to launch their careers and serve their communities, while creating a better future for themselves and their families.
Diné College was the first tribal college, founded in 1969 during the Civil Rights era, with others soon following. Today there are 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). All offer certificate programs and associate degrees, with 19 offering bachelor’s degree programs and seven offering master’s degree programs. The American Indian College Fund provides support for both TCUs and their students.
Tribal colleges and universities are located across the nation, from the Midwest to the Southwest to the Plains and the Northern Rockies, serving diverse Indian Nations. Despite these differences, all TCUs must share three basic criteria: they must be tribally chartered, their boards must be comprised of a majority of Native Americans, and the student body must be comprised of a majority (51%) of Native Americans.
These remarkable higher education institutions provide a higher education not just to Native students but also other community members in the remote, rural communities where they are located. In addition to education, TCUs also provide important community services including health education and health centers, exercise facilities, childcare, computer centers, libraries, Indigenous research, Native language instruction, community centers for activities and ceremonies, and lifelong learning.
The first six tribal colleges founded the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to maintain common standards of quality in American Indian education; to support the development of new TCUs; to promote and assist in developing legislation to support American Indian higher education; and to encourage greater participation by Native peoples to develop higher education policy. AIHEC created the American Indian College Fund in 1989 to raise funds for scholarships and the TCUs. The College Fund raises millions of dollars for student scholarships; campus infrastructure; and programming such as research, language preservation, early childhood education, mentoring, internships, and student success programs.
TCUs provide Native students with access to an accredited, higher education in or near their reservation communities. The curriculum and even the campus architecture reflect Native cultures, traditions, and values to provide a supportive, culturally based space for learning and growth.