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Education consortium welcomes new tribal college members

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ALEXANDRIA, Va. - The American Indian Higher Education Consortium has admitted Ilisagvik College in Barrow, Alaska, and the College of the Muscogee Nation in Okmulgee, Okla., as new members of the organization.

The AIHEC board of directors voted to accept Ilisagvik College as a ''regular'' member after sending a team to visit the college to determine eligibility. To become a regular member of AIHEC, a college must meet several criteria: be chartered by a federally recognized American Indian tribe or an American Indian, Eskimo or Alaska Native community; be governed solely by American Indians, Eskimos or Alaska Natives; and serve a majority of American Indian, Eskimo or Alaska Native students. In addition, regular members must be accredited or a candidate for accreditation.

Established in 1995, Ilisagvik College is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities as a two-year community college and serves a largely Inupiat Eskimo student population. President Beverly Grinage explained: ''Ilisagvik College is the only institution dedicated to serving the post-secondary training and education needs of Alaska's North Slope. We are grounded in Imupiaq values and committed to helping our residents assume professional control of our homeland. Our goal at Ilisagvik is to help our North Slope residents attain permanent employment on the North Slope, while strengthening and perpetuating our Inupiaq culture, language, values and traditions.'' Ilisagvik is the first and only federally recognized tribal college in Alaska.

Following an AIHEC team site visit to the College of the Muskogee Nation, the AIHEC board also voted to accept it as an ''associate'' member, which means the college has met general eligibility criteria for AIHEC membership and has taken initial steps toward seeking full accreditation. President Pete Coser explained: ''Founded in 2004, the mission of the College of the Muscogee Nation is to serve as the institution of higher education for the Muscogee [Creek] Nation, emphasizing Native culture, values, language and self-determination.'' CMN is the second tribal college in Oklahoma to be admitted. The Muscogee Creek Nation is actively supporting the efforts of CMN in moving forward with North Central Accreditation processes. Currently, the institution has established a partnership with the Oklahoma State University system to utilize their accredited courses.

Gerald Gipp, AIHEC executive director, welcomed the new colleges. ''These two new colleges represent the continuing growth of the tribal college movement. We understand that not all tribal communities can build their own college; however, we expect to see an increase in the number of new tribal colleges over the next decade.'' He added: ''With the addition of our first member institution from Alaska, the advocacy base for the tribal college movement and for AIHEC is increased to 14 states.''