with Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund
Posted Nov 14, 2017
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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.
Interview recorded October 11, 2017.
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. Joining me is Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and C.E.O. of the American Indian College Fund. Cheryl, welcome to the program.
Crazy Bull: Thank you.
Traynham: So good to have you with us. Let´s start, first and foremost, what is a tribal college?
Crazy Bull: Well, tribal colleges are post-secondary institutions established by tribes in order to provide higher education to people in their communities, run by their communities.
Traynham: And about how many are there?
Crazy Bull: Currently, there are 36 that are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
Traynham: And are most college -- tribal colleges on reservations? Are they two-year, four-year, all of the above?
Crazy Bull: They´re all of the above, and the vast majority of them are located on or near Indian reservations.
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?
Crazy Bull: Well, American Indians face a lot of obstacles in attempting to go to college. Oftentimes, 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 into education. Transportation, family needs, a lack of financial resources are also obstacles.
Traynham: So let´s talk about how do we achieve parity when we´re having this conversation. What are some of the steps and programs that you´re working on to perhaps raise this number from 13.8% to 99.9%?
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 they have.
Traynham: Can I pause there for a second? I mean, just speaking on behalf of myself, who went to an HBCU, an Historically Black College or University, that experience, the immersion experience and learning about the African-American community, actually, quite frankly, being around folks that looked 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 with tribal colleges?
Crazy Bull: I would say it´s the same. Tribal colleges do that very thing. They help students see that college is actually something that they can aspire to, and we provide that kind of support at an earlier age. They also provide students with cultural experiences, really reinforce 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 the students.
Traynham: And I want to speak for a few moments about the financial aspects of the support that you give. Are they full scholarships, partial scholarships? What does that look like?
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.
Traynham: Part Two with Cheryl Crazy Bull is up next. Click the link below to learn more about the efforts to boost access to higher education with the Native American community.