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American Indian College Fund FAQs

About the American Indian College Fund

Who is the American Indian College Fund?
The American Indian College Fund is the nation’s largest and highest-ranked Native charity.
We began operations in 1989 to provide scholarships to American Indian students and financial support to the tribal colleges. Our commitment to our communities and accountability to our donors is reflected in our consistent high rankings from independent charity watchdog organizations.

  • We earned the “Best in America Seal of Excellence” from the Independent Charities of America. Of the one million charities operating in the United States, fewer than 2,000 organizations have been awarded this seal.
  • We meet the Standards for Charity Accountability of the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance.
  • We received an A- rating from the American Institute on Philanthropy.

Where does the American Indian College Fund get its support?
We receive support from individual donors, corporate supporters, and foundations. We do not receive state, or federal government funding.

What types of students does the American Indian College Fund support?
More than 60% of first-time entering tribal college students are between 16-24 years old. More than half of American Indian College Fund scholarship recipients are female. The five top majors of study amongst our scholarship recipients in 2012-13 were: business; health-related fields (nursing, nutrition, pre-medicine); the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields (STEM); liberal arts; and education. The majority of our students say they want to get a college education to help their communities. American Indian College Fund data, American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

The People We Serve

Why do American Indians need scholarships?
A college education is a path out of poverty. Yet less than 5% of American Indians can afford to go to college without help, and the need for scholarship assistance will only grow in the years ahead. The American Indian population is the youngest in America, with 28% of American Indians under the age of 18. College enrollment amongst American Indians is increasing as more see a college education as a way out of poverty. Full-time college enrollment amongst American Indians rose by 31.3% between 2003-11. U.S. Census Bureau, American Indian Higher Education Consortium, American Indian College Fund.

What does the economic landscape look for American Indians?
More American Indians live in poverty than any other racial or ethnic group, with 28% of American Indians below the poverty line on reservations and 22% impoverished nationwide (compared to a national poverty rate of 15.3%). U.S. Census Bureau 2010.

Why are poverty rates so high amongst American Indians?
The answer is complex. Twenty-two percent of American Indians and Alaska Natives live on remote reservations with limited employment opportunities. By the first half of 2011, 49% of American Indians were unemployed, up from 43% in 2007. Economic Policy Institute.

But what about casinos? Aren’t Indians rich because of them?

Not all tribes have gaming. Only 198 of 558 recognized tribes have gaming compacts with their states. Gaming gives some tribes hope for economic development, but it has not created great wealth. Most tribes are trying to develop infrastructure with their proceeds, such as roads, schools, hospitals, and more for their people. National Indian Gaming Association.

How does poverty impact the ability of American Indians to go to college?
Poverty is a major barrier to attending college. Without a scholarship, many of our students must choose between buying food or paying for tuition. High poverty and low educational attainment rates are linked. American Indians are still the least educated group in America. Only one percent of American Indians were enrolled in degree-granting institutions in 2000-09, and only 13% percent of American Indians have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with 28% of the overall population. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau.

But doesn’t the government pay for American Indians go to college for free?
The notion that American Indians go to college for free is a myth. Like other Americans, American Indians must pay to go to college. The exception is where American Indian students receive tuition as part of a treaty agreement.

About Tribal Colleges

What are tribal colleges?
In 1968, the first tribal college was established by the Navajo nation to provide an affordable, culturally based college education close to home for its people. Today 34 accredited tribal colleges operate at 77 campuses in states where the majority of American Indian reservations are located. American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

What kinds of education programs do tribal colleges offer?
Our tribal colleges offer four master’s degree programs, 46 bachelor’s degree programs, 193 associate’s degree programs in subjects like business, engineering, science, technology, education, health care, and more. Tribal colleges also offer 119 certificate programs, five apprenticeship programs, and seven diploma programs, GED coursework, along with computer labs, libraries, fitness centers, child care centers, and more for the communities. Twenty-three tribal colleges also provide dual enrollment programs so that students can take advanced coursework for high school while completing basic college coursework. American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

How much does it cost to attend a tribal college?

In 2013-14, the average cost of attendance at a tribal college was approximately $14,168 per year (including room, board, books, and tuition averaged across institutions). The American Indian College Fund helps to make a college education more affordable by awarding scholarships. But for students who live below the poverty line, it’s still not enough. American Indian Higher Education Consortium.