The Mellon Foundation Awards $2,585,000 to American Indian College Fund
Grant Supports Indigenous High School Students’ Paths to College, College Transfer Students, and College Retention
Denver, Colo., June 8, 2022—The Mellon Foundation has awarded the American Indian College Fund $2,585,000 to support its Native Pathways to College Program. The College Fund created this culturally based program to increase first-time college enrollment after high school, retention, and graduation of American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students. Most recent data shows AIAN students make up less than 1% of students enrolled in college nationwide, with only 19% of 18 to 24-year-old AIAN students enrolled in college compared to 41% of the overall U.S. population (National Center of Education Statistics, 2018). The College Fund’s Native Pathways program gives AIAN students the support and programming they need to go to college and graduate, using a three-pronged approach.
The Native Pathways program provides culturally specific resources to AIAN high school students to help them prepare for and apply to college, including guidance on choosing a major, coursework, college tours, budgeting, and financial aid. The program also provides supports for AIAN students attending two-year tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), completing an associate degree, and students seeking to transfer to a four-year institution to earn a bachelor’s degree. The program provides coaching opportunities, training for TCU staff to assist transfer students, and informational events focused on the transfer process. Finally, the program provides in-person and online student events on a variety of college and career readiness topics including wellness, prayer and meditation, cultural identity, finding a sense of belonging on campus, storytelling for successful writing, choosing a major, careers, test-taking strategies, financial aid, and a wide range of additional online offerings.
The Native Pathways program launched in 2016 and has since grown significantly. Programming for the high school component initially served 29 reservation-based high schools in five states and grew to support 80 high schools and community partners on or near reservations in 12 states in 2020-2021. The TCU transfer component of the program originally supported students at 12 TCUs and in 2020-2021 grew to support students at 23 TCUs with direct coaching, staff training, and in-person and online events.
In addition to an increase in outreach, the Native Pathways program’s focus has also expanded. While the original program worked with individual students and small groups through direct coaching, today the program focuses on deepening existing relationships and providing staff training to meet Native students’ needs and deliver programming, all with the end goal to reach more students.
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “As Indigenous students navigate an increasingly complex and global experience and as our young people strengthen their identities as Native people, we are called upon to be there for them, as mentors, supporters, and guides. We are called upon to help them become leaders, in their homes, communities, and in this nation. With the support of the Mellon Foundation and our many allies on their team, we can be the support that our young people need. We are able, together, to help them on their journeys. On their behalf, I offer sincere appreciation to the Mellon Foundation for its continued support.”
About the American Indian College Fund—The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 32 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer” and provided $15.5 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian students in 2020-21. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $259 million in scholarships, programmatic and community support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit www.collegefund.org.