Tribal Colleges are a classification of institutes of higher education that are located primarily on or near American Indian reservations and serve the educational needs of American Indians. Tribal Colleges are relatively new in the United States, most having only been established in the last forty years. They were created to combat the growing disparity in the American Indian community. American Indians have a vastly lower educational attainment level, especially if living on reservations, than that of any other ethnic group in America. They also tend to be geographically isolated, economically depressed and exhibit extremely high suicide rates. These factors combine to create very limit future prospects for American Indians.
The first Tribal College, Dine College, was established in 1968 by the Navajo Nation in hopes of creating a way for American Indians to better themselves and their lives through higher education. Today, there are 36 Tribal Colleges in the United States, primarily centered in the Midwest and Southwest regions. They can either be chartered by a tribe and managed locally, or chartered by the federal government and managed via a national board. These colleges are unique in every way. They all have an open admission policy, and offer two year associates degrees and vocational certificates. The majority of colleges are fully accredited and some of them even offer bachelor and master level degrees. Several Tribal Colleges have even created partnerships with area state universities to allow their students admission upon successful completion of an associate’s degree. The curricula at Tribal Colleges are especially interesting, in that they are designed from the American Indian perspective. They teach traditional courses, as well as cultural studies like tribal language and tribal literature. Some classes are even taught by tribal elders and other nontraditional instructors. Today, Tribal Colleges boast around 30,000 full and part time students. The majority of which are considered nontraditional, including single mothers and older adults, and most receive federal financial assistance.
If you are interested in attending a Tribal College in your area, contact one for more information regarding course offerings, financial aid, and admission processes. These institutes of higher education are a fantastic way for a segmented people to receive an education, increase their future prospects and improve their quality of life. While these colleges are still relatively young, their presence is greatly felt throughout the American Indian society.