The TCU Difference - Higher Education

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The TCU Difference

by Sarah Wood


Some alarming statistics speak to the need to bolster eff orts to increase higher ed attainment among Native Americans.

College enrollment among Native Americans aged 18 to 24 fell from 41% in 2010 to 19% in 2016, according to the American Indian College Fund.

The College Fund, a charity that serves Native Americans, links the decline to the high school years, which don’t adequately p r e p a r e students for college, and to the low rate of Native A m e r i c a n families who are college educated. Only 14% of Native A m e r i c a n students in the United States who are 25 and older hold a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Dr. David Sanders, vice president of research, evaluation and faculty development at the College Fund, suggests that college costs and the distance that students need to travel from home to some college campuses create signifi cant challenges for many Native Americans who want to pursue higher education.

“When you’re from a rural community traveling pretty big distances to an institution, you might not have a car or you might not have a mode of transportation,” Sanders says. “It’s not just the cost around getting to the institution but also having access to technology that would allow you to participate in class, such as a computer. I think what we see is that there are some very basic issues that students have to overcome in order to be successful.”

It seems that attending tribal colleges and universities

(TCU) postively impacts outcomes for many Native American students
American students. Based on the survey report, “Alumni of Tribal Colleges and Universities Better Th eir Communities,” Native American students who attend TCUs benefit signifi cantly more from their college experience compared to peers who attend non-TCUs. Th e survey, a partnership between the Gallup organization and the College Fund, found that TCU attributes contribute to student success: Th ey are “usually tribally controlled, typically located on Indian reservations or in other rural areas and are imbued with a mission to serve American Indian students with instruction that is more aligned with Native culture and values than what mainstream institutions off er.” Th ere are 37 TCUs in the United States. In fall 2017, 11% of Native American students attended a two- or four-year public or private, not-for-profi t TCU, according to the report. Th e report compared responses from 596 alumni of TCUs with 24,886 college graduates nationally, 2,889 minorityserving institution (MSI) graduates and 1,051 American Indian or Alaskan Native alumni. The TCU alumni represented nine institutions including Cankdeska Cikana Community College, Northwest Indian College, College of Menominee Nation, Diné College, Institute of American Indian Arts, Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College, Sitting Bull College, Turtle Mountain Community College, and United Tribes Technical College. “All of us who have worked with tribal colleges and universities since their founding in 1968 recognized that these place-based, culturally-rooted institutions transformed lives and communities,” said Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the College Fund, in a statement. “Th rough the support of Strada Education Network and a partnership with Gallup, we are able to provide the data to back this up. Our graduates tell the story of our success as tribal institutions.” Sanders noted that TCUs off er a number of support systems, like smaller class

sizes and a focus on building student and faculty relationships. According to the report, 53% of graduates surveyed strongly agreed they had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams, compared to 28 percent of alumni nationally and 26 percent of MSI graduates. Additionally, 81% of TCU alumni strongly agreed they had at least one professor who made them eager to learn compared to 71 percent of college graduates nationally. “There is defi nitely a dedication to serving the tribal community as well as students that come from a tribal community and that may or may not exist at other colleges and universities,” says Dina Horwedel, director of public education at the College Fund. Horwedel applauded TCU faculty for what they do to contribute to student success