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Tribal Colleges: Strong Voter Turnout Helps SD Campuses


Wednesday, October 26, 2022   

South Dakota is home to three tribal colleges and universities. Higher education leaders for Indigenous populations say they hope to see strong turnout for the midterms, as it could help them elevate the pathways of more students.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, president and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said because most of these schools are on reservations, they cannot rely on state support, only federal funding. She hopes to see voters research candidates who would make more funding a priority, so the schools could have a more firm financial footing.

"We need people in Congress who support Native higher education," Crazy Bull asserted. "So that we can get the kinds of resources that we need."

She noted additional support could also help address gaps in Native students seeking financial aid. During the pandemic, Congress has provided emergency relief to tribal colleges. But leaders testified before federal lawmakers their funding levels per student remain inadequate, typically falling below the authorized level of $9,000.

Jacob McArthur, economic development director for the White Earth Tribal Government in neighboring Minnesota, attended his area's community college before moving on to a mainstream university. He said tribal schools, sometimes called TCUs, serve as a great bridge, especially for nontraditional students, whether they finish at another school or fill needed roles within their community.

"Our TCUs are really important for workforce development," McArthur emphasized. "It isn't just about the two-year degree and putting you on the pathway towards a four-year degree."

According to the Gallup Purdue index, nearly 75% of tribal college alumni said they were employed in areas related to American Indian communities or tribal lands, and many work directly with their tribe.

Disclosure: The American Indian College Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Education and Native American Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.

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