58138 US Highway 93
P.O. Box 70
Pablo, MT 59855
Mission, Vision, Educational Philosophy
The mission of Salish Kootenai College (SKC) is to provide quality post-secondary educational opportunities for Native Americans, locally and from throughout the United States. The college promotes community and individual development and perpetuates the cultures of the Confederated Tribes of the Flathead Nation. The vision of SKC is to foster curricula and vocational certification, and associates’ and bachelors’ degree programs that meet the unique needs of the Native American population.
To fulfill its mission, SKC pursues several institutional goals. These include assisting with the preservation of the cultures, languages, histories, and natural environment of the Salish, Pend d`Oreille, and Kootenai people, providing diverse post-secondary opportunities for learners at all levels, promoting effective communication, critical thinking, cultural understanding, and citizenship within its students, and assisting with tribal economic development, to name a few.
Salish Kootenai College began as the Reservation Extension Center of Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC). In 1977, the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes officially chartered the college. SKC sprang from the humblest of beginnings. The original “campus” consisted of office space donated by the local Polson School District and other sites around the reservation. Funding came primarily from grants and less than 50 students enrolled.
With the passage of the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act in 1978, the college accessed a stable funding base that allowed for both expansion of services and independence from FVCC. In 1981, the college separated from FVCC and formally renamed itself Salish Kootenai College. In 1984, the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredited SKC, making it the first tribal college in the Northwest to accomplish the goal.
By its tenth year, SKC not only operated a six-building campus in Pablo, but it offered 310 courses to 540 full-time students. In 1994, the college received both Land Grant status and renewed accreditation. Since then, the campus rapidly expanded and enrollment climbed.
Most recently, SKC entered into a new chapter of its institutional history with the retirement of long-time college president Dr. Joe MacDonald after more than 30 years of service to the college.
Geographic Features and Challenges
Salish Kootenai College is located in the center of the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana in the town of Pablo. The college lies 60 miles north of Missoula and is surrounded by mountains and national forests. The reservation is home to approximately 4,000 tribal members, 1,100 Native Americans from other tribes and over 10,000 non-Native Americans.
Northwestern Montana experiences some of the harshest winters in the United States. Because its service area covers the mountainous and expansive 2,000-square mile reservation, the college benefits greatly from its ability to offer on-campus housing to SKC students. Still, demand exceeds available housing particularly for students with families, leaving many students with the arduous task of securing reliable transportation to and from class each day.
In addition to its main campus on the Flathead Reservation, SKC offers classes at satellite locations in Washington on the Colville and Spokane Reservations and in Spokane.
Academics and Students
SKC is unique among its tribal college peers in that its students demographically reflect characteristics more typical at mainstream universities. For example, approximately half of enrolled students are 24 years old or younger and three-fourths of all students pursue their studies full-time. Additionally, one in four SKC students is non-Native. Such statistics indicate that the college serves as a first-choice institution for an increasing number of students coming straight from secondary schools. SKC had developed an extensive array of supports, including retention programming targeting first-year students, to address students’ unique needs.
Nearly 1,200 students enroll at SKC each fall. The college faculty comprised of 76 full-time faculty members and 41 part-time faculty members teaches 10 bachelors’ of science degree programs, three bachelors’ of arts degree programs, five associates’ of arts degree programs, seven associates’ of science degree programs, three associates’ of applied science degree programs, and five certificate of completion programs.
In the 2006-2007 academic year, SKC conferred 60 associates’ degrees and 17 bachelors’ degrees. In spring 2010, 60 students earned associates’ degrees, while 37 students earned bachelors’ degrees.
Other Outstanding Accomplishments
As testament to its strong reputation of academic and institutional excellence (one media source referred to SKC as “the most successful tribal college in America”), recent partnerships have included multi-million dollar investments from such diverse funding sources as NASA, the United States Navy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Montana Governor’s Office, to name a few. Each partnership supports SKC’s efforts to promote research opportunities, strengthen academics and enhance the overall student experience at SKC.
As outside investment grows, so does the college’s ability to provide community programming to the reservation. The college owns and operates its own television station. SKC oversees the HeartLines Project that develops tribally-specific stories, histories, articles, and place-based knowledge for children, youth, and adults. Health services provided by the Center for Prevention and Wellness on Campus are open to community members. These programs, and others, exemplify SKC’s role as a true community institution.