Survey supports success of tribal colleges

Students at Fort Peck Community College, a tribal college in Montana. (Photo: FPCC)

American Indian students who attend tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) enjoy significant benefits over American Indian students at other types of academic institutions, according to a new report.

TCU students receive greater support in college, and TCU graduates are more likely to have no college debt, give back to their communities and be successful in their careers, says the report from the American Indian College Fund (AICF) and Gallup.

A key way to improve college graduation rates for Native American students is through TCUs, which are affordable, accredited, culturally relevant higher education institutions charted by tribes on or near Indian reservations, AICF says. There are 29 tribally chartered institutions among the 35 accredited TCUs that are members of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

All of the 35 TCUs offer associate degrees and certificates. Just five of them also offer bachelor’s degrees and four offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Deeper connections

The study compared TCU alumni with college graduates nationally who earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, graduates of minority-serving institutions, and American Indian and Alaska Native baccalaureate recipients who didn’t attend a TCU.

According to the survey findings, 74 percent of TCU graduates say they have forged careers serving their communities and societies. More than half report a deep interest in the work they do in careers that serve communities, such as education, health care and social services.

Fifty-three percent of TCU graduates say they have the opportunity to do work that interests them, compared to 38 percent of graduates nationally.

More support for students

TCU graduates (43 percent) are more than twice as likely as American Indian/Alaska Native graduates of non-TCUs (21 percent) and college graduates nationally (18 percent) who say they’ve experienced three critical support measures in college. Those supports include having a professor who cared about them as a person, a professor who got them excited about learning, and a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their dreams.

Among other findings:

  • Only 3 percent of TCU graduates received student loans, compared to 16 percent nationally.
  • Sixty-seven percent of TCU graduates said education was worth the cost, compared to 39 percent of college graduates nationally.
  • TCU graduates report they are nearly twice as likely as graduates nationwide to say they are thriving financially, socially and professionally.
  • Forty percent of TCU graduates strongly agree that their college prepared them well for life, compared to 27 percent of college graduates nationally and 24 percent of American Indian graduates nationally.

“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 AICF president and CEO Cheryl Crazy Bull.

About the Author

Ellie Ashford
is associate editor of Community College Daily.