Cost the biggest hurdle for Native Americans to get degrees / Public News Service

According to a collaborative study conducted by the National Native Scholarships Providers, the biggest barrier faced by Indigenous students obtaining college degrees is cost.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said students frequently go into debt to pay for post-secondary education, costing tribal communities dearly.

Jobs that pay enough for graduates to repay their loans and support their families are rare in Indian country.

“And if students have to go into significant debt to be able to go to college,” Crazy Bull said, “then they’re often unable to return to their tribal communities to give back, which we know they want to do.”

The report recommends that governments and the private sector continue to invest in scholarship organizations such as the College Fund, tuition support and support partnerships.

Colorado, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, and South Dakota now offer tuition waiver programs for Native American students in all states.

Six of the seven occupations identified by the Wyoming Department of Employment as the most in-demand require some form of post-secondary education.

Crazy Bull said getting more high schools to encourage students to complete the federal financial aid form, which is required by many colleges before releasing need-based scholarships and grants, can also help more indigenous students to exploit the resources.

“A lot of our students are still first-generation students,” Crazy Bull said. “So they have no experience with college, so they don’t know how to access resources for college.”

Only 36% of Indigenous students enrolled in four-year colleges in 2014 graduated within six years, compared to a 60% graduation rate for all other students.

Lifetime earnings are much higher for people with college degrees, and Crazy Bull pointed to a study that found Indigenous graduates also perform better on several quality of life indicators.

“Their wellness characteristics were excellent,” said Crazy Bull. “So I think it’s not just about income and a career path, but also about a better quality of life in general.”

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Nohemi M. Moore