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.
- Natives have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic and racial groups in the United States. Only 13.8% of American Indian and Alaska Natives earned a college degree, compared to 29.7% 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 nearly 40-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 nearly 30 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,
About Cheryl Crazy Bull
Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota) has more than 30 years of experience working in education with American Indian institutions. Since 2012 she has served as the President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. From 2002-2012 she served as the President of Northwest Indian College (NWIC), a regional tribally-controlled institution located on the Lummi Nation in Washington State. She lead the college’s transition to a four-year degree-granting institution and completed substantial construction campus improvements while there. Prior to joining NWIC, Crazy Bull was the superintendent of St. Francis Indian School and held teaching and administrative positions at Sinte Gleska University, both on her home reservation of Rosebud in South Dakota.
Crazy Bull served for eight years on the executive committee of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, including four years as chair. She also served on the boards of the National Museum of the American Indian and the National Congress of American Indians Policy Research Center. She was a founding member of the Northern Plains Tribal Art Show and Market in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. She served on the economic development committees of both the Rosebud Sioux Tribe and the Lummi Nation. She currently serves on the Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s National Higher Education Access & Scholarship Task Force, the Programs and Practice Committee of Independent Sector, and as an advisor on the Reclaiming Native Truth project to dispel America’s myths and misconceptions about American Indians.
She was honored for her leadership with an Enduring Spirit Award from Native Action Network in 2011, as one of three finalists for Whatcom County Business Person of the Year in 2012, and with honorary doctorates from Sinte Gleska University and Seattle University. In 2015 she was named by Indian Country Today magazine as one of the 50 most influential people in Indian Country. In 2017 she was one of two American Indian women leaders honored by National Indian Women’s “Supporting Each Other” group.
Crazy Bull graduated from the University of South Dakota with a bachelor’s degree in business management and South Dakota State University with a master’s degree in education administration. She was an outstanding alumna of the South Dakota State University College of Education and received a special achievement award from the Rosebud Sioux Tribe for this accomplishment.