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The Community We Serve

Rural South Dakota
One in five students we serve must travel more than 50 miles to attend classes.

The American Indian College Fund Provides Native Americans                                          with Higher Education Access

Our goal: To educate 60% of American Indian and Alaska Native people served by tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) by 2025.

Profile of the Students We Serve:

  • Unemployment rates on reservations can be as high as 95%.
  • Twenty-eight percent of Native Americans on reservations live below the poverty line (U.S. Census Bureau).
  • Nationwide, Native youth face some of the lowest high school graduation rates of all ethnic and racial groups.
    • On average, less than 50% of Native American students graduate from high school each year in the seven states with the highest percentage of American Indian and Alaska Native students (The Civil Rights Project).
    • Less than 13% of American Indian and Alaska Native students earned a college degree as compared to 28% of other racial groups (U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Educational Statistics).
  • The average per capita income for reservations is $15,671 (U.S. Census Bureau 2010) per year. More than 28.4% of American Indians live below the poverty line, compared to the national poverty rate of 15.3% (U.S. Census Bureau 2010). The American Indian College Fund helps fill the gap by awarding scholarships and providing programmatic support to the TCUs.
  • Only one in 20 (or 5%) of American Indian College Fund scholarship applicants can afford college without financial assistance.
  • The demand for scholarships is greater than the supply due to high poverty rates, a young American Indian population, and the growing number of Native students seeking to enter college for a better life. The number of Natives enrolled in colleges and universities has more than doubled in the past 30 years and the number of degrees they earned has doubled in 25 years.

Profile and Timeline of the Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs):

  • The first TCU was established in 1968 by the Navajo nation. Today the American Indian College Fund supports 34 TCUs located on or near Indian reservations which provide access to a higher education.
  • Diné College and five of the first TCUs founded the American Indian Higher Education Consortium to maintain common standards of quality in American Indian education; support the development of new tribally controlled colleges; promote and assist in developing legislation to support American Indian higher education; and encourage greater participation by American Indians in the development of higher education policy.
  • TCUs receive some federal funding as a result of the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act of 1978, which authorized the federal government to assist community colleges on reservations and controlled by the tribes. At the time that legislation passed, TCUs had been in existence for nine years.
  • The American Indian College Fund was founded in 1989 to support Native American student scholarships and provide additional funding for the TCUs.
  • Most tribal colleges receive no Indian casino or state tax revenues.
  • In 1994, Congress provided Land Grant status for tribal colleges and universities in U.S. agricultural legislation to provide equity funding, access to research and extension programs, and other federal infrastructure grants and loans. Despite federal recognition and funding and the progress of Indian education, TCUs remain the most poorly funded higher education institutions in the country.

  • In order to keep higher education affordable, TCUs keep tuition low for their students. The average cost of attendance at a TCU in 2013-14 was approximately $14,168 per year (including room, board, books, and tuition averaged across institutions).

  • TCUs are accredited and must meet the same academic standards as all other colleges and universities.

  • The 34 accredited TCUs the College Fund supports serve more than 30,000 full-time students.

  • TCUs promote academic achievement, cultural identity, and lift students out of poverty through an education, creating economic and social change in Native and rural communities.

  • TCUs provide necessary services to American Indian communities such as diabetes education and prevention, HIV education, daycare and health centers, libraries, computer centers, indigenous research, language preservation classes, community activities, and lifelong learning programs.





Only 5% of American Indian student scholars can afford college without financial assistance.

→Download our brochure about how you can help support Native students.