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TCU Timeline

A Modern History Timeline of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)

Today there are 35 fully accredited tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) located on or near Indian reservations across the United States, providing higher education access to Native and rural students.


  • Diné College, founded as Navajo Community College in 1968 by the Navajo nation, was the first tribal college.
  • 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 American Indian participation 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 2014-15 was approximately $16.355 per year (including room, board, books, and tuition averaged across institutions).
  • TCUs are accredited and must meet the same academic standards as other accredited colleges and universities.
  • TCUs promote academic achievement, cultural identity, and lift students out of poverty, 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.


The demand for scholarship dollars is great due to need, a young American Indian population, and a growing number of Native students seeking an education for a better life. Your support is needed more than ever. Give today!