Native American College Grants
Sources for Native American Grants: Tribal Colleges and More
Native American students have historically been under-represented in colleges and universities across the country. In an effort to address this imbalance, a large number of College grant programs, both private and public, have appeared to give financial aid to Native Americans dreaming of a college education. Unfortunately, many students are not aware of these valuable programs, and miss out on the available financial aid.
If you are of Native American ancestry, and are looking for ways to pay for college, then there are plenty of programs designed to help you. The trick is knowing where, and how , to look.
Proving Indian Descent
Before you can take advantage of any of the college grant programs dedicated to Native American students, you must be able to prove, with documentation, that you are at least ¼ American Indian. The Bureau of Indian Affairs will issue a Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood to individuals who can present a complete genealogy, including birth certificates and enrollment on tribal records, proving their Native American ancestry. You will need to research your American Indian heritage, using both family and tribal records. You should also consult the Dawes Rolls, which are census documents prepared during the late 1800's when Native American tribes were forced onto reservations around the Untied States.
Proving your Native American ancestry will take time, and some diligent research. But tracing your Indian heritage can pay off, both financially and personally. Here are the best resources to begin your search:
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Federally recognized Tribal nations
- The Dawes Indian Census Rolls
- Family ancestry and genealogical records
Once you have your documentation proving your Native American ancestry, you can begin looking into the sizable grant opportunities that are available to you.
Federal Sources for Indian Education Grants
The American government and the Tribal nations have a storied history, to say the least. But in recent years the Federal government has implemented many programs to redress any past persecutions. Underlying these programs is a dedication to helping Native Americans find access to educational opportunities.
The Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs was established to promote the rights of Native Americans, including the right to a higher education. The BIA manages the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities, and administers various education grants and scholarships through their sister organization, the Bureau of Indian Education. These include the BIE Higher Education Grant, the Indian Health Service Scholarship and the Embry-Riddle Scholarship in Science and Technology. These grants and scholarships are open to all undergraduate and graduate students with the requisite Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood.
American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund was established in 1989 with the goal of promoting educational opportunities for Native Americans in both Tribal and non-Tribal colleges and universities. The AICF offers a variety of annual scholarships and grants, designed to help documented Native American students pursue their dreams of a college education.
The AICF sponsors the annual Full Circle Scholarship for undergraduate students. This scholarship is available in two forms, one for students attending a Tribal College or University,and another for those attending a Non-Tribal College or University. The AICF also provides annual scholarships for Native American Graduate students attending either Tribal or Non-Tribal institutions.
Tribal Colleges and Universities were specifically established to provide post-secondary education to the Native American population. They are chartered by the tribal governments of Federally recognized American Indian nations, and operate more than 75 campuses across 15 U.S. States. These colleges offer standard university level courses as well as Native American studies. Many of the Tribal Colleges and Universities offer financial aid to certified Native American students, in the form of grants, scholarships and tuition waivers. A complete list of these schools can be found via the White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities. You will also find links to each college to help you explore their individual financial aid programs.
Once you have traced your Native American heritage, and you know what tribal nation you are descended from, you can look to that nation directly for college grants and scholarships. Many tribal nations provide financial aid to college-bound members, and this is always a good resource when hunting for those much needed college funds. The Law department at Oklahoma University provides a comprehensive list of the active recognized Tribal nations with links to their dedicated websites.
Other Sources for Native American Student Grants
There are a number of other sources for college grants dedicated to Native American students. States with large Native American populations often offer state-funded grants and scholarships for American Indian students. Checking with your states authorized website will provide you with information on what may be available to you locally.
Many national organizations and associations also offer financial aid opportunities to qualified Native American students. A couple of the most notable of these include:
- The American Indian Graduate Center is a private non-profit organization that provides 1500 grants and fellowships to Native American and Alaskan Native graduate students every year.
- The Gates Millennium Scholars Program, sponsored by the Bill and Amanda Gates Foundation, offers scholarships and grants to minority students pursuing studies in science and mathematics. This program also gives special consideration to Native American applicants.
Native American Grants for Specialized Study
Like many other minority groups in the United States, Native Americans have been largely under-represented in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. These disciplines are often referred to as the STEM fields, and there is currently a nationwide push to attract Native American students to these areas of study. Native American students can also benefit form grants and scholarships designed to attract students to other critical need fields like nursing and teaching. These specialized study grants may come from the government, universities or private organizations and associations. If you are a Native American student with an interest in any of the fields, look for financial aid programs targeting your heritage and your subject of interest.
Some examples of the kinds of organizations and the types of programs you will be looking for include:
- The Indian Health Service offers loans and scholarship programs designed to fast track Native American students into the health care sector, with special attention to individuals planning to serve as health care providers on American Indian reservations.
- The University of Arizona provides financial aid to Native American students under their Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Act. This financial aid is specifically for indigenous students pursuing a law degree.
- The Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS) maintains a small database of fellowships and grants for qualified students looking to fund their college studies in one of the critical need STEM fields.
As a Native American student you will find many varied, and often lucrative, financial aid opportunities designed to help you realize your college ambitions. The secret is to do your research, remain diligent, and apply for all of the grants and scholarships for which you are eligible.