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Funding for United Tribes Technical College Included in Budget Settlement

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The budget battle in Washington, D.C. was resolved in mid-April and United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) came through okay with the help of friends.

As you know, we were closely watching how Congress and the president would resolve their differences and fund government for the remainder of this fiscal year.

A sizable portion of our operational funding had been deleted from the temporary measures passed to fund government. We found ourselves in limbo, caught up in the debate over the national budget. The potential existed for the loss of about $3.7 million, 46 percent of the college’s annual operational funding.

We would have had no practical way of making up for that. The financial reality would have hit the college, and the Bismarck/Mandan community, in August, around the time we are scheduled to begin fall semester.

Fortunately, that scenario was averted. Funding for United Tribes was included as part of the agreement in Washington that resolved the federal budget.

Sorting out what happened—we know that earlier this year, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to fund the government for the rest of fiscal year, career and technical education funding for United Tribes and Navajo Technical College (NTC) was mistakenly considered an earmark by the House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education, chaired by Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg. On that basis, our funds were cut from a temporary government funding bill that was signed by the president.

We knew that needed to be corrected in the final spending bill for FY 2011, or UTTC would face dire consequences. UTTC, NTC, our friends in Congress and many others worked very hard to show that a mistake had been made.

We all know that the president and Congress ultimately agreed that the federal government would not be shut down. Our agonizing period of uncertainty ended when the detailed spending bill became available and we learned that funding for UTTC and NTC was included. We were told by Rehberg’s committee that it was a “mistake” that we had been considered an earmark.

Our argument that we were not an earmark was right all along. We are funded through a formula and have competed for our funding since 1991 when the law was enacted; such programs are not earmarks.

Now, distribution of the funds is in the hands of the Secretary of Education. We look forward to continuing uninterrupted with our academic calendar, course offerings and services to students and families, along with services to the many tribes and tribal programs in the region and around the nation.

Among the many friends and supporters who came to our defense and helped lift the uncertainty were 20 United Tribes students from the Crow Nation in Montana. Their letters to Congressman Rehberg helped clarify that a failure of our educational mission in Indian country has consequences for real people.

North Dakota Congressman Rick Berg also visited with Rehberg. The entire North Dakota Congressional delegation supported us, along with the governors of North Dakota and New Mexico, the New Mexico congressional delegation, and Hawaii Senator Daniel Inouye. This was truly a bipartisan effort.

Support from the Bismarck City Commission, the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association, and the Chamber of Commerce demonstrated that ours is an effort the entire community can support.

Many of our friends from Indian country joined us, as they have in the past: our United Tribes board of directors, the American Indian Higher Education staff, NTC President Elmer Guy, and many others. We also received support from the Bismarck Tribune editorial board.

We can demonstrate the success of our well-established educational record dating back over four decades. We fulfill a vital role in providing a high-quality college education, jobs training and career-building programs for students who come from some of the nation’s poorest rural areas—communities that continually suffer high rates of unemployment and economic distress. Our services open a pathway to independence for Americans with the greatest need.

United Tribes is grateful for the support of all who helped. Thank you for your good efforts and for your prayers. The Great Spirit has guided this important cause.