Oregon Joins States Offering Free and Reduced Tuition for Native Americans This Year – Oregon Capital Chronicle

Members of Oregon’s nine federally recognized tribes can attend public universities and community colleges in the state virtually free this school year, and members of federally recognized tribes nationwide will be eligible for tuition. tuition in the state at the school’s two largest universities.

In May, the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission established a grant for members of Oregon’s tribes, covering the average cost of attending the state’s eight public universities, 17 community colleges and 14 of the state’s 18 private, nonprofit colleges. Grants cover anything not already paid for by other state and federal aid and can also be used to help cover housing and book costs.

This summer, three public universities in Oregon announced they would go even further, offering in-state courses to members of the 574 federally recognized tribes across the United States. Among them are the two largest universities in the state by enrollment, Oregon State University and Portland State University. . On Monday, Southern Oregon University announced that it would also offer the same deal.

This makes Oregon one of the few but growing states offering free and reduced tuition to Native American students in an effort to increase enrollment and graduation rates among the population.

Nationally, about 24% of Native American students between the ages of 18 and 24 are enrolled in a college or university, about half the rate for the general population, according to the National Center of Education Statistics. In Oregon, about 48% of Native students enroll in college after high school, about 15% lower than the rate for all high school graduates in the state.

Oregon is now joining Michigan and Montana in making public university tuition free for members of tribes based in the state, along with several public universities doing so independently, such as the University of Minnesota in Morris and the University of Maine. This summer, the University of Arizona announced it would offer free tuition to Indigenous students, and the University of California system, the nation’s largest, announced this summer it would scrap tuition for members of federally recognized tribes within its borders.

Free Classes for Native Students in Oregon

In late 2021, Governor Kate Brown joined Oregon tribal leaders and the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission to discuss equity and gaps in access to higher education among graduates. state natives and their non-native peers. A commission survey found that 40% of Native American students at public universities in Oregon who had received financial aid were still struggling to pay for their education. The coalition recommended to the Legislature that it allocate funds to a grant program to cover these costs, and in February the Legislature approved $19 million to fund one year of the Tribal Student Grant program.

It will cover the average cost of attending public universities, community colleges, and most tuition at most private, nonprofit schools in the state for Native students enrolled in Oregon tribes. Grants to private schools are capped at the average cost of Oregon’s most expensive public university. According to Endi Hartigan, director of communications at the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, students are notified by their college’s financial aid office of the amount of their scholarship.

As of August 22, 423 students have applied and are tentatively eligible for the grant, according to Hartigan. Despite the August 1 application deadline, she said in an email that the commission will continue to accept applications for any eligible student wishing to enroll this fall.

“We will continue to give out awards until funds are exhausted,” she wrote.

The commission recommends that the grant program be continued after this school year and will ask the Legislature to approve another round of funding in 2023.

An agreement for tribal members across the United States

The two largest universities in the state, Oregon State and Portland State, announced this summer that they would offer in-state courses to any Native student enrolled in one of the 574 tribes. recognized by the federal government across the country.

Last fall, 174 Indigenous students enrolled at OSU either online or at one of its two campuses in Corvallis and Bend, said Steve Clark, vice president of academic relations and marketing.

He estimates that about 29 were nonresident students who could benefit from the new in-state tuition policy this school year.

Portland State has not collected enrollment data for Indigenous students, according to Katy Swordfisk, communications manager for the school. But under the new policy, students from tribes based outside of Oregon will enjoy in-state tuition about $10,000 less per year than students from outside of Oregon. State. Native students not based in Oregon will pay the in-state cost of about $19,000 per year down from $29,000, a reduction of about $420 per credit hour.

Southern Oregon University in Ashland is the latest to announce that it will offer in-state classes for Native students from outside Oregon. In-state tuition means some Indigenous students will pay up to $18,000 less this year depending on which state they’re from and what degree program they choose, the spokesperson said from the university, Joe Mosley.

According to Mosley, 251 students at Southern Oregon University identified as Native American last fall. Of these, 167 were from Oregon, but only 11 were enrolled in one of the state’s federally recognized tribes.

At each of these three universities, students who submit documentation of their tribal status when applying are automatically eligible for state rates.

Who is eligible for Oregon Tribal Scholarships and where:

Enrolled members of nine tribes:

  • Burns Paiute Tribe
  • Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians
  • Confederate Tribes of Grand Ronde
  • Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians
  • Confederate Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
  • Confederate Tribes of Warm Springs
  • Shell Indian Tribe
  • Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians
  • Klamath Tribes

Participating universities:

  • Eastern Oregon University
  • Oregon Health and Science University
  • Oregon Institute of Technology
  • Oregon State University
  • Oregon State University – Cascades Campus
  • Portland State University
  • Southern Oregon University
  • University of Oregon
  • Western Oregon University

Participating Community Colleges:

  • Blue Mountain Community College
  • Central Oregon Community College
  • Chemeketa Community College
  • Clackamas Community College
  • Clatsop Community College
  • Columbia Gorge Community College
  • Klamath Community College
  • Lane Community College
  • Linn-Benton Community College
  • Mount Hood Community College
  • Oregon Coast Community College
  • Portland Community College
  • Rogue Community College
  • Southwestern Oregon Community College
  • Tillamook Bay Community College
  • Treasure Valley Community College
  • Umpqua Community College

Private colleges and universities:

  • Bushnell University in Eugene
  • Corban University in Salem
  • George Fox University at Newberg
  • Lewis & Clark College in Portland
  • Linfield University in McMinnville
  • Mount Angel Seminary in Saint Benedict
  • Multnomah University in Portland
  • Portland National University of Natural Medicine
  • Pacific Northwest College of Art in Portland
  • University of the Pacific at Forest Grove
  • Reed College in Portland
  • University of Portland
  • Warner Pacific University in Portland
  • Willamette University in Salem

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story stated that grants were capped at the average cost of tuition at Oregon public universities. Grants are capped at the average cost of the most expensive public university in the state.

Nohemi M. Moore