Our Communities Need You
Last year was a tough year for many students and others in our communities, but like their ancestors before them, our scholars tapped into their Native values, practices, and traditions to persevere. We are proud of all of you and your achievements.
It seems like just yesterday when last year’s school year started, in the face of great uncertainty. And now it’s time to return to school again. The pandemic situation is uncertain again, however, we have come through a year knowing what we are dealing with and how to do so, and we also know that education offers many opportunities for Native people, making this the BEST time to start on the path to earning a professional certificate or college degree.
The reasons for going to school this fall are many. I think about all the times that our relatives overcame hardships because they were so committed to our survival. I don’t mean just survival when we are faced with life-threatening experiences like violence or hunger but also survival when we prepared for winter, or when we got ready to travel to hunt and gather, or to visit our relatives.
We know though that especially in hard times, our communities need to know that educated leaders will be coming up to continue their legacy. Yet nationally, as of Spring 2021, undergraduate enrollment was down by 4% and the steepest decline in undergraduate enrollment occurred among Native American students, with 10% fewer Native American students enrolled at U.S. colleges and universities in Fall 2020 than in Fall 2019. We cannot continue on this path. Our communities and your families are counting on you.
You can be assured that you will not have to do this alone. Thanks to the vision and leadership of TCUs and the American Indian College Fund, students are receiving more support than ever before. Last year the American Indian College Fund distributed more than 4,000 scholarships totaling $9 million, which students can use for tuition, food, healthcare, and technology.
We know that access to technology is vital in today’s world, so the College Fund and TCUs also provide students with the tools they needed to succeed in today’s hybrid teaching and learning environment. This learning environment gives you more flexibility and you can use that flexibility to overcome barriers to your education. Barriers like lack of transportation or childcare. You can learn from home. We’ve seen that students can check out laptops, tablets, and hot spots to access the Internet and complete their studies from wherever they are.
College is challenging in the best of times and there are many decisions and challenges facing our students. Our Student Success Services team and your TCUs are walking alongside you to ensure that you have the coaching and emotional support to navigate college during these times.
We are so proud of our current scholars, new scholars, and those of you who are weighing the decision of enrolling in college. Last year we saw you not only taking on the challenge of staying in school in constantly evolving circumstances and shouldering additional responsibilities to step up as leaders. You gathered and distributed food, supplies, and technology equipment to fellow students and community members. You looked out for each other, your families, and our elders, and made sure that our people knew they were not alone but were valued relatives in our collective fight against the virus. You lived our values and as a result, you didn’t merely persevere-you succeeded.
We know that as classes begin again this fall, you will continue to build on your knowledge and success. You will continue to make a difference as you use what you learn to lift all Indigenous people.
NATIONAL Trends – Data from the National Student Clearinghouse Fall 2020 Higher Education Enrollment Updated (last updated Nov. 2020). https://nscresearchcenter.org/stay-informed/