Graduation Season Sees Fewer Applications

It’s cap-and-gown time for Native American graduating seniors, but the American Indian College Fund (the fund) is stymied by a dearth of applications for some of the college-level scholarships it offers or administers.

“Currently, there are fewer applications for special scholarships, and we’re not sure why,” said Dina M. Horwedel, the fund's director of public education. She referred to named scholarships ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 offered by individuals, foundations or industry as opposed to general scholarships, mostly to the nation’s 33 accredited tribal colleges and universities.

Fewer current applicants are the case, even though the number of Native college graduates has nearly doubled over the last two or three decades, she said.

To date this year, the fund has awarded 5,932 scholarships totaling $4.3 million, with approximately three-fourths of that amount going to tribal colleges and the remainder going to students attending mainstream universities.

Currently, the fund has about 400 special scholarships for fall 2011 totaling $1.65 million, in addition to nearly $4 million to be awarded to tribal colleges and universities and to be disbursed through them as they see fit, she said.

The scholarships may represent “the most you’ll ever get for 30 minutes of your time (in filling out the application),” Horwedel said, noting the deadline for application is June 30 on forms available at Collegefund.org.

She cautioned against submitting applications considered incomplete because of a failure to enclose a required essay, high school transcript, or college transcripts if the applicant is transferring.

Independent readers evaluate each application during the summer and each form may have slightly different requirements for, as an example, declared major, activities in which one has participated, or other kinds of information, she said. Award and denial notices are mailed to applicants in September.

Receiving scholarships can be a make-or-break aid for many Native students, Horwedel said.

“There’s a Blackfeet Community College enrollee getting a $5,000 per year renewable grant, depending on maintaining a certain grade point average,” she noted. “The student said, ‘It wouldn’t have been possible for me to go to college without it.’”

Although the average cost of tuition per year at a tribal college is $2,399, the average total cost to attend with room and board, supplies, books, fees and other costs was $12,425 in 2008-09 and “is still out of reach for most Native students living below the poverty line,” the fund said.

Despite increased Native graduates, American Indians/Alaska Natives accounted for less than one percent of those earning bachelor’s degrees or higher, compared to 71.8 percent of whites, 9.8 percent of African-Americans, 7.9 percent of Hispanics, and 7 percent of Asian and Pacific Islanders, according to a fact sheet.

Special (named) scholarships available for the 2011-12 school year for Native undergraduate and graduate students attending accredited tribal colleges and mainstream opportunities include the following, which may in some instances be awarded to more than one applicant:

  • Anonymous Foundation: $2,600
  • Arizona Public Service Scholarship: $4,000, $8,000 and $10,000
  • Anthony A. Welmas: $1,000 and $2,000
  • Austin Family Scholarship Fund: $1,250
  • Cargill Scholarship Program: $3,500
  • Cartwright Endowed Scholarship: $2,000
  • CIGNA Foundation Scholarship Program: $2,000 and $2,600
  • Citi Foundation Scholarship Program: $3,200
  • Coca-Cola First Generation Scholarship: $5,000
  • Ecotrust Scholarship: $3,000
  • Ford Motor Company Tribal College Scholarship: $3,000
  • General Mills Foundation: $2,000
  • Colorado Foundation: $2,500
  • Hershey Company Tribal Scholarship Program: $1,250 and $2,500
  • Hilton Worldwide Scholarship: $1,000
  • Lilly Foundation: Woksape Oyate: “Wisdom of the People” Distinguished Scholar Award: $8,000
  • Lilly Foundation: Woksape Oyate: “Wisdom of the People” Keepers of the Next Generation Award: $8,000
  • Morgan Stanley Tribal Scholars Program: $2,500 and $5,000
  • Nissan North America, Inc. Scholarship: $3,000 and $5,000
  • Seven Stars Graduate Scholarship: $2,000
  • Sovereign Nations Scholarship Fund: $2,000
  • United Health Foundation Scholarship: $5,000
  • Traveler’s Foundation: $4,000
  • Anthony A. Welmas: $1,000
  • Seven Stars Graduate Scholarship: $2,000
  • Sovereign Nations Scholarship Fund: $2,000
  • Vine Deloria Jr. Memorial Scholarship: $1,000
  • Wal-Mart Scholarship: $2,600