- New Programs Improve Employment, Income, & Education Levels
- Colleges Impact Rural Regions & States, Despite Significant Underfunding
- Tribal Colleges Get Almost 40% Less Funding Than Mainstream Colleges
Washington, D.C., Feb. 2, 2000—A new report shows that many of the nation’s 31 Tribal Colleges and Universities are overcoming the longstanding barriers facing American Indians to achieve significant advances in income, employment, and education attainment levels.
Tribal Colleges are utilizing innovative approaches that integrate business methods with tribal values, roles, and community structures. These methods are impacting not only reservations but also rural states and regions, and serve as models for many communities nationwide, the report states.
These successes come despite the fact that Tribal Colleges operate with significantly less government funding per student—more than 40% less—than mainstream community colleges, at $3,432 versus $6,089, and with virtually no state or local funding available. The study calls for increased federal support—for land-grant funds, entrepreneurship, and infrastructure—to build on these achievements and reach tribal self-sufficiency, and for policymakers to see Tribal Colleges as a key resource for economic development in their regions and states.
The report cites dramatically higher rates of median income, employment, and postgraduate education among many Tribal College graduates as compared to other American Indians on reservations. From 1980 to 1990, for example, median income for females living on reservations with Tribal Colleges grew 49% faster than incomes for those living on similar reservations without Tribal Colleges. The unemployment rate for at least one set of recent Tribal College graduates was 15%, as compared to 72% on the reservation overall. With such success, Tribal Colleges can help combat the often deplorable economic conditions in their local communities—the unemployment of American Indians living on reservations with Tribal Colleges averaged 45% in 1995, and the average per capita income was $4,665 in 1990. By comparison, the average unemployment rate in the U.S. was about 6% and the average per capita income was $19,188.
The report, “Tribal College Contributions to Local Economic Development,” was prepared by The Institute for Higher Education Policy, a Washington, DC-based non-profit education research group, and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC), which is comprised of the 31 American Indian Tribal Colleges and Universities.
By integrating tribal and business values, tribal communities define the success of their programs as much by levels of social renewal as by fiscal growth, but appear to achieve both. These programs range from: an economic summit at Little Big Horn in Montana; internet access for Tribal businesses and farmers; banking and law enforcement career training at Fond du Lac Tribe in Minnesota; environmental sciences at Diné College (Navajo Nation); engineering studies at Turtle Mountain in North Dakota; and entrepreneurship training at Sitting Bull and at Salish Kootenai colleges.
“Facing historic barriers of poverty, illiteracy, severe health problems, and discrimination, the clear successes of Tribal Colleges, despite serious underfunding, demonstrate what increased support can and should do to build on these amazing breakthroughs for American Indians,” stated David Gipp, President of AIHEC and President of United Tribes Technical College in North Dakota. “Policymakers need to see these colleges as a new, uniquely effective resource for economic development of entire regions throughout this nation.”
Tribal Colleges nationwide, the study states, have had immediate impacts on their communities and regions through the creation of jobs, services, and role models, but more significant are their long-term impacts on: workforce and skills development; encouragement of entrepreneurship and small business growth; and promoting efficiency and environmentally sound practices in agriculture and natural resources.
The report calls for enhanced support for Tribal Colleges and their communities in order to maximize these areas of progress and to reach goals of self-sufficiency. These recommendations include:
- Increased funds under federal land-grant legislation to allow Tribal Colleges to help tribes manage their land and natural resources, a crucial element of self-sufficiency;
- Funding to help build a foundation for small business growth and entrepreneurship on reservations;
- Cooperation and support for regional development;
- Building infrastructure capacities (financial institutions, transportation, communication); and
- Increased awareness by policymakers to see Tribal Colleges as a community development resource.
The report is the latest in a series produced under the Tribal College Research and Database Initiative, a collaborative effort between the American Indian Higher Education Consortium and the American Indian College Fund. The Initiative is supported in part by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Native Americans, and the Pew Charitable Trusts.