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Tester Fights to Strengthen Funding for Tribal Colleges and Universities

Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, is aware of the struggle in Indian country when it refers to obtaining a college degree and landing a good-paying job.
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Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, is aware of the struggle in Indian country when it refers to obtaining a college degree and landing a good-paying job. The two items are intertwined, and for that reason Tester is pushing for increased funding for tribal colleges and universities.

The Senate Committee of Indian Affairs vice-chair recently sent a letter to the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee addressing the need for stronger funding. His letter highlighted the impact of inadequate funding for tribal colleges and universities on the families and communities.

“This is not simply a matter of appropriations falling short of an authorization,” Tester wrote. “Inadequate funding impedes these institutions from having the necessary resources to enhance their programs in response to the changing needs of their students and communities they serve.”

Federal funding is a key component for any growth and according to the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, federal funding for tribal colleges and universities is significantly lower than non-tribal schools. In some cases that difference is three times the amount per student as tribal colleges and universities.

“Every day, we witness the extraordinary differences tribal colleges and universities make to improve the lives of tribal students and families. These institutions are positive agents of change and the key to a brighter future for Indian country.” Tester wrote.

Funding tribal colleges is tricky due to the schools being situated on federal trust lands. This unique difference from other public higher education institutions removes any obligation on states for funding.

Montana invests less than half of the amount per student provided to Montana’s Community Colleges.

There are more than 30 tribal colleges and universities across the nation, seven in Montana, and as Tester noted in his letter, these schools are often the primary employer in tribal communities.