By 2020, it’s estimated that 65 percent of jobs will require a post-secondary degree or certificate. Only 13.8 percent of American Indians have a bachelor’s degree or higher. With 40 percent of this population at college age or younger, there is a need for strong support systems to further academic and professional success. Tribal colleges are working to raise college graduation rates while promoting the teaching and preservation of Native American languages and culture. A conversation with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund. This discussion continues part 2 of Native Amer Education and Culture.
Interview recorded October 11, 2017. Hosted by Robert Traynham.
Read a partial transcript of this interview below:
Robert Traynham: Currently only 13.8% of American Indians hold a college degree. That’s less than half the national average. Hello everyone and welcome to Comcast Newsmakers. I’m Robert Traynham and joining me is Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of The American Indian College Fund. Cheryl, welcome to the program.
Cheryl Crazy Bull: Thank you.
Robert Traynham: So good to have you with us. Let’s start, first and foremost, what is a Tribal College?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: Tribal Colleges are post secondary institutions established by tribes in order to provide higher education to [00:00:30] people in their communities run by their communities.
Robert Traynham: And about how many are there?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: Currently there are 36 that are members of The American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
Robert Traynham: Are most Tribal Colleges on reservations? Are they two year, four year, all of the above?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: They’re all of the above and the vast majority of them are located on or near Indian Reservations.
Robert Traynham: Cheryl, as I mentioned a few moments ago, unfortunately only about 13.8% of American Indians hold a college degree. Why is the number so low?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: Well, American Indians face [00:01:00] a lot of obstacles and attempting to go to college, often times, the institutions are not very welcoming in terms of the identity and culture of American Indians. They’re overcoming real tremendous socioeconomic barriers to getting an education. Transportation, family needs, a lack of financial resources are also obstacles.
Robert Traynham: So let’s talk about how do we achieve parody, when we’re having this conversation, what [00:01:30] are some of the steps and programs that you’re working on to perhaps raise this number from 13.8% to 99.9%?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: Yeah, well we’d definitely like to see that number increase dramatically. At The American Indian College Fund, we support that by providing students with the kinds of support systems that they need, both to succeed in college and also to succeed in whatever career aspirations.
Robert Traynham: Can I pause there for a second. I mean just speaking on behalf of myself, who went to an HBC [inaudible 00:01:57] by college university, that [00:02:00] experience, the immersion experience in learning about the African American community, actually quite frankly, being around folks that look like me, people encouraging me to fill out the application and so forth. That support structure was, for me at least, so very important, nurturing, encouraging, sometimes pushing, sometimes pulling me in the right direction. Is it the same on Tribal Colleges?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: I would say it’s the same. Tribal Colleges do that very thing. They help students see that college is actually something [00:02:30] they can aspire to and we provide that kind of support at a earlier age. They also provide students with cultural experiences, really enforce the Tribal identity of students, recognize that as indigenous peoples, our lives are about our kinship and our relationships with each other, so Tribal Colleges and the work of the College Fund support that kind of experience for students.
Robert Traynham: I wanna speak for a few moments about the financial aspect of the support that you give. Are they [00:03:00] full scholarships, partial scholarships? What does that look like?
Cheryl Crazy Bull: The vast majority of our scholarships are partial scholarships. We’re able to serve over 4,000 students, which is about 20% of the number of students that are enrolled at Tribal Colleges and our scholarships range from 250 to 5,000. We have a few $10,000 and above scholarships, but those are rare.