Scholarships and College Guide for Native American Students

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Native American man dancing in traditional garb

Scholarships for Native Americans are an essential resource. In 2016, data from the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey showed that income among Native Americans is substantially lower than that of the general U.S. population. Native Americans also suffer poverty at higher rates than the general population.

For many, a bachelor’s degree can help to secure a stable job with income above the poverty level, while a master’s degree or another advanced degree can help boost income. Native Americans especially can benefit from higher learning, taking advantage of colleges and programs designed to help overcome institutional biases.

Statistics About Native Americans in College

As the following statistics show, Native Americans are finding it difficult to access and graduate from higher education institutions.

High School: A high school diploma or testing equivalent is essential for any individual who wants to go to college.

  • According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 75% of Native American students earned a high school diploma in 2006, which was 16% less than Caucasian students and 18% less than Asian/Pacific Islander students.
  • In 2006, Native American students between the ages of 16 and 24 had the second-highest drop-out rate in the nation.
  • In 2005, 36% of Native American students completed core high school classwork requirements, compared with 52% for all other students.
  • According to Partnership with Native Americans, the average graduation rate for Native American freshmen students is 70%, which is 12% lower than the national average.
  • For Native American youths enrolled in Bureau of Indian Education schools, the graduation rate is only 53%.
  • According to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute (PNPI), 63% of Native American high school students don’t talk to a school counselor about classes they should take or their aspirations after high school.

College

  • According to Partnership with Native Americans, 17% of Native American high school students go on to postsecondary education, compared with 60% for all other students.
  • According to PNPI, college enrollment rates for Native American students dropped from 23% in 2015-16 to 19% the following year.
  • In 2000, 30% of Native Americans aged 25 to 29 had earned their bachelor’s or associate degree; in 2017, that number fell to 27%, compared to 54% for Caucasians.
  • Native American full-time students who began attending college in 2008 had an average completion rate of 23%, compared with 44% for Caucasian students.
  • According to Partnership with Native Americans, only 13% of Native Americans have a college degree, compared with 28% for other Americans.

Funding for College

  • According to PNPI, 62% of Native American students need federal student loans, compared with 56% of Caucasian students.
  • In 2011-12, 85% of Native American students accessed federal grants, compared with 69% of Caucasian students.
  • According to Partnership with Native Americans, 35% of Native American youth grow up in impoverished households.

Challenges Faced by Native Americans

Native Americans face a number of challenges on the path to a college education. Since they are more likely than others to come from poverty-stricken families, affording college is tough. When Native Americans do find a way to afford college, whether through scholarships, grants, or loans, they still may have a hard time affording textbooks, lodging, and other necessities.

Other barriers to education for Native Americans include the distance of reservations from universities and a lack of reliable internet access on reservations, meaning it’s tough to take classes online. Furthermore, Native American students who are used to being surrounded by tribal members find themselves underrepresented in a sea of unfamiliar faces at college.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, less than 1% of faculty at colleges was Native American in 2005. Native American students on campus can have a hard time coping with a lack of community and cultural familiarity from faculty. Moreover, Native Americans may face discrimination — intentional or unintentional — from peers and faculty.

Native American Scholarships and Grants

There are many scholarships and grants for Native Americans. Below, you’ll find qualification information, as well as information on the best scholarships and grants.

Proving Native American Ancestry

To qualify for aid based on your Native American ancestry, you must be a member of a federally recognized tribe. Each tribe is a sovereign nation with self-governing power, meaning each tribe has its own criteria for determining membership status. Once your membership status is confirmed, the tribe issues a tribal I.D. card or writes an official letter.

One way to prove your status as a Native American is to obtain a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB). Eligibility for a CIB depends on your blood quantum, which is the percentage of Native American blood you possess. Your blood quantum does not depend on DNA tests; instead, you must be able to prove your lineage. If you can provide birth certificates, including your own, your parents’, and, optimally, your grandparents’, you can get a CIB from the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) office nearest to your tribe’s location. If your grandparents’ birth certificates are not available, send their names and approximate dates of birth.

The BIA provides a guide to tracing your ancestry. The BIA merely acts as an intermediary between tribes and the federal government. The best way to determine your Native American status is to research your genealogy and provide the evidence to your tribe of predominant descent.

Fill Out Your FAFSA

In addition to providing proof of ancestry, many scholarships and other forms of aid will require you to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

Your FAFSA tells aid-granting organizations information they need to know, such as when you plan on attending college, the schools you’d like to attend, and your financial needs.

American Indian Services (AIS) Scholarship

AIS is a nonprofit organization in Salt Lake City dedicated to creating programs and raising funds to promote education for Native Americans, with the goal of honoring culture and heritage.

Scholarship Qualifications and Requirements

  • Proof that you are at least one-quarter blood quantum (Native American heritage) and a tribal member
  • Minimum 2.25 GPA your first semester of college and maintained thereafter
  • Completed FAFSA
  • Must be either planning on attending college or already attending, and you don’t qualify if you’ve been to college before and earned a degree
  • Provide a photo of yourself, a biographical letter, your proof of heritage, the official tuition billing statement from your college, and an official untouched transcript along with the online application

AIS does not specify the scholarship amount. For more information, contact AIS directly.

Association of American Indian Affairs Scholarship

Founded in 1922 and headquartered in Rockville, Maryland, the Association of American Indian Affairs (AAIA) is the oldest nonprofit dedicated to supporting the culture and sovereignty of Native Americans.

Scholarship Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Proof that you are an enrolled member of a tribe from the continental U.S. or Alaska; blood quantum evidence not required and your tribe does not have to be federally recognized
  • Minimum 2.5 GPA
  • Must be enrolled to attend college full time and seeking an associate degree or higher
  • Provide proof of tribe membership, most recent school transcripts (does not need to be official), and a 2-3 page personal essay on one of the topics in the application

AAIA does not specify the scholarship amount; around 11 to 12 applicants end up winning the award each year. Visit the AAIA scholarships FAQ page for more information.

Continental Society Daughters of Indian Wars, Inc. Scholarship

The Continental Society Daughters of Indian Wars is dedicated to preserving Native American records and historical sites and works to foster cooperation between tribes, as well as the enforcement of treaties.

Scholarship Amount: $5,000

Scholarship Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Proof that you are an enrolled member of a tribe
  • Plan to work as an educator or social services provider for a tribe or Indian American nation
  • Acceptance to attend or current enrollment in an accredited college/university, preferably entering your junior year
  • A 3.0 GPA

You must submit your application by June 15. Contact the scholarship chairman for more information.

Daughters of the American Revolution Scholarships

Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) is a nonprofit, politically neutral organization dedicated to historical preservation, education, and patriotism. There are two scholarships you can apply for.

DAR American Indian Scholarship

Amount: $4,000

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Proof of Native American heritage
  • Minimum GPA of 3.25
  • Can be any age and at any stage of education to qualify, but preference is given to undergraduates

Frances Crawford Marvin American Indian Scholarship

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Proof of Native American heritage
  • Minimum GPA of 3.25
  • Must be enrolled full time at a two-year or four-year college

DAR does not specify the scholarship amount.

Indian Health Service Scholarship

Indian Health Service (IHS) is a Department of Health and Human Services agency that provides federal health services to Native Americans and Alaska Natives. The IHS offers scholarships for Native Americans who are planning on going into careers in health, such as those seeking a bachelor’s in healthcare management.

All scholarships require applicants to be current members or descendants of a federally recognized, state-recognized, or terminated tribe. You need to have a minimum 2.0 GPA, and all scholarships also require you to fulfill a two-year commitment at an American Indian health facility upon graduation.

To qualify for the Preparatory Scholarship, you must be enrolled in prep or undergraduate prerequisite courses for entry to a health professions school.

To qualify for the Pre-Graduate Scholarship, you must be enrolled in courses that will earn you a bachelor’s degree in a health profession.

To qualify for the Health Professions Scholarship, you must be enrolled in a program seeking a degree in a health profession.

All IHS scholarships pay the cost of tuition, required fees, and educational and living expenses.

Indian Higher Education Grant Program

The Indian Higher Education Grant is financial assistance offered by the Bureau of Indian Education.

Qualifications and Requirements:

  • Must be an enrolled member of an American Indian or Alaska Native tribe or at least one-quarter quantum blood
  • Must be accepted to attend a college offering two-year or four-year degrees
  • Must demonstrate financial need

To apply for this grant, contact your tribal leader.

Truman D. Picard Scholarship

The Truman D. Picard Scholarship is offered by the Intertribal Timber Council, a consortium dedicated to the proper management of natural resources important to Native American communities.

Scholarship Amount: $2,000 for graduating high school students, $2,500 for college students, $2,000 for grad students and graduating college seniors.

Qualifications and Requirements: 

  • Proof of enrollment in a federally recognized tribe or Alaska Native tribe
  • Three letters of reference
  • A two-page application letter stating interest in natural resources and dedication to education, community, and American Indian culture
  • Official or unofficial copy of latest transcripts
  • A copy of your resume

Download the scholarship announcement to apply.

Native American Tribal Colleges by State

Since many Native Americans live on reservations, higher education may be less accessible than it is for those who live in cities or suburban areas. Tribal colleges aim to give Native American students access to an education nearer to home. Below, you’ll find a list of tribal colleges and their locations.

Alaska

Ilisagvik College

100 Stevenson Street

Barrow, Alaska 99723

907-852-3333; AK only 1-800-478-7337

Arizona

Dine College 

1 Circle Dr.

Route 12

Tsaile, AZ 86556

928-724-6600

Tohono O’odham Community College

P.O. Box 3129

Sells, AZ 85634

520-383-8401

Kansas

Haskell Indian Nations University

155 Indian Avenue

  1. O. Box 5030

Lawrence, KS 66046

785-749-8479

Michigan

Bay Mills Community College

12214 W. Lakeshore Dr

Brimley, MI 49715

906-248-3354

Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College

111 Beartown Rd.

Baraga, Michigan 49908

906-353-4600

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College2284 Enterprise DriveMount Pleasant, MI 48858989-775-4123

Minnesota

Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College2101 14th StreetCloquet, MN 55720-2964218-879-0800

Leech Lake Tribal College 6945 Little Wolf Road NWCass Lake, MN 56633218-335-4200

Montana

Blackfeet Community College

504 SE Boundary Street

  1. O. Box 819Browning, MT 59417406-338-7755

Chief Dull Knife College

1 College Dr.

  1. O. Box 98Lame Deer, MT 59043406-477-6215

Aaniiih Nakoda College

605 Indian Ave.P. O. Box 159Harlem, MT 59526406-353-2607Fort Peck Community College P. O. Box 398Poplar, MT 59255406-768-6300

Little Big Horn College

8645 South Weaver DriveP. O. Box 370Crow Agency, MT 59022

406-638-3100 (main number)

Salish Kootenai College P. O. Box 117Pablo, MT 59855406-275-4800

Stone Child College

8294 Upper Box Elder RdRR1, Box 1082Box Elder, MT 59521406-395-4875

Nebraska

Nebraska Indian Community College 1111 Hwy 75 P. O. Box 428Macy, NE 68039402-837-5078

Little Priest Tribal College 

601 East College DriveP. O. Box 270Winnebago, NE 68071402-878-2380

New Mexico

Navajo Technical College 

Lowerpoint Road, State Hwy 371

  1. O. Box 849

Crownpoint, NM 87313

505-786-4100

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

9169 Coors Blvd

  1. O. Box 10146

9169 Coors Road, NW

Albuquerque, NM 87184

505-346 2347

North Dakota

Cankdeska Cikana Community College

  1. O. Box 269

Fort Totten, ND 58335

701-766-4415

Fort Berthold Community College 

220 Eighth Avenue North

  1. O. Box 490

New Town, ND 58763

701-627-4738

Sitting Bull College 

1341 92nd Street

Fort Yates, ND 58538

701-854-3861

Turtle Mountain Community College 

10145 BIA Road 7

  1. O. Box 340

Belcourt, ND 58316

701-477-7862

United Tribes Technical College

3315 University Drive

Bismarck, ND 58504

701-255-3285

Oklahoma

College of the Muscogee Nation

2170 Raven Circle

PO Box 917

Okmulgee, OK 74447

918-758-1480

South Dakota

Oglala Lakota College 

490 Piya Wiconi Road

Kyle, SD 57752

605-455-6022

Sinte Gleska University 

  1. O. Box 105

Mission, SD 57570

605-856-5880

Sisseton Wahpeton College 

BIA Rd 700, Agency Village

  1. O. Box 689

Sisseton, SD 57262

605-698-3966

Washington

Northwest Indian College 

2522 Kwina Road

Bellingham, WA 98226

360-676-2772

Wisconsin

College of Menominee Nation 

N172 Hwy 47/55

  1. O. Box 1179

Keshena, WI 54135

715-799-5600

Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwa Community College

13466 W. Trepania Rd.

Hayward, WI 54843

715-634-4790

Wyoming

Wind River Tribal College

P.O. Box 8300

Ethete, WY 82520

307.335.8243

 

Recommended Reading:

Should You Take the ACT or SAT?

Which Bachelor’s Degrees Have the Highest Income Potential?

A Guide to Planning for College