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United Tribes Technical College Offers Free Tuition to Native Students

In an effort to make it easier for Native American students to start college, United Tribes Technical College will waive tuition for Native Americans.
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In an effort to make it easier for Native American students to start college, United Tribes Technical College will waive tuition for Native American students who are enrolled in a federally recognized tribe beginning with the coming Fall semester.

“We serve a population that has the lowest annual income averages in the entire United States,” said Leander “Russ” McDonald, UTTC President, in a press release. “These are students from some of the most impoverished areas in the country. And we believe it’s our obligation to offer realistic financial assistance to help them get started on a path that will change their lives.”

UTTC, in Bismarck, North Dakota, is offering the waiver as a one-year pilot program, that was recently approved by the college’s governing board, whose members represent the five tribal nations in North Dakota.

McDonald noted that student loans don’t work for families that are without savings or access to credit, or have a low level of financial literacy. It’s unconscionable to expose them from the start to a system they have little experience with that has the potential for saddling them with sizable debt, he said.

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“As a tribal college, it’s our mission, first and foremost, to serve the education needs of tribes and tribal people,” McDonald said. “To make higher education attainable, we’ve determined that it’s necessary to do the financial piece in ways that do not exclusively rely on student loans.”

The Native Student Tuition Waiver begins with the Fall 2016 semester. New and current students may be eligible, and the deadline to submit an application is June 30, 2016.

“I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to get started early,” Kathy Johnson, UTTC Student Services Vice President, said in the release. “Filling out applications may seem overwhelming but help is available, and it’s well worth the effort to have the tuition waiver to get a start in college.”

Some forms can take days to fill out, like the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so starting early is advised. The tuition waiver is based on unmet financial need, and will only apply to tuition, and not to other college costs, like books, housing, fees, and meals.

There is a helpful checklist of requirements and a step-by-step application for UTTC online. Only applications received through June 30 will be considered for the free tuition waiver. The college will offer the waiver through 2017, when it will reassess its effectiveness in making college accessible to Native students.