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News Release

American Indian College Fund

Education has been heralded as the “great equalizer,” but today only 14 percent of Native Americans in the United States ages 25 and older have a bachelor’s degree or higher — less than half of that of other groups. The key to eliminating this disparity may be tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) — affordable, accredited, culturally-relevant higher education institutions chartered by tribes serving Native students on or near Indian reservations. American Indian college graduates who attended tribal colleges and universities enjoy significant benefits over college students attending other academic institutions, according to a new American Indian College Fund and Gallup survey report titled Alumni of Tribal Colleges and Universities Better Their Communities.

The report shows tribal colleges and universities graduates are creating a unique and community-focused life after graduation, outpacing the efforts of graduates from mainstream academic institutions, as well as possible reasons for that, in the following ways:

Tribal colleges and universities graduates are giving back to their communities. Seventy-four percent of tribal colleges and universities graduates surveyed say they have forged careers serving their communities and societies. More than half report a deep interest in the work they do in careers that serve their communities such as education, healthcare, social services, and more. Perhaps because of the ability to do work that they find meaningful, more than half of tribal colleges and universities graduates report they are deeply interested in the work they do (53 percent) and half (50 percent) say they have the opportunity to do work that interests them, compared to 38 percent and 37 percent of college graduates nationally.

Tribal colleges and universities graduates received greater support in college. Tribal colleges and universities graduates (43 percent) are more than twice as likely as American Indian/Alaska Native graduates of non-tribal colleges and universities (21 percent) and college graduates nationally (18 percent) to recall experiencing three critical support measures in college: having a professor who cared about them as a person, having a professor who made them excited about learning, and having a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams. tribal colleges and universities graduates outpace non-tribal colleges and universities American Indian/Alaska Native graduates in all three measures, with the gap between tribal colleges and universities and non-tribal colleges and universities graduates the widest for having professors who cared about them as people (59 percent vs. 33 percent, respectively).

Tribal colleges and universities graduates are more likely to be debt-free. Tribal colleges and universities graduates are more likely to state their education was worth the cost — 67 percent as opposed to 39 percent of college graduates nationally. Only three percent of tribal colleges and universities graduates took student loans as compared to 19 percent of students nationally, leaving them debt free as they pursue their preferred careers after graduation. Lack of debt also has a positive impact on college graduates' financial well-being and that of their families.

Tribal colleges and universities graduates are thriving in all aspects of well-being. tribal colleges and universities graduates report nearly twice as much as graduates nationwide that they are thriving financially, socially, and in their communities and careers.

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Tribal colleges and universities are geographically and culturally diverse but share common goals such as integrating cultural values and connection to land into curriculum and pedagogy while emphasizing community outreach and education that is rooted in tribal identity and practice. In 2017, over 11 percent of American Indian students studying at a U.S. two-or four-year public or private not-for-profit post-secondary institution attended one of the 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities.

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “All of us who have worked with tribal colleges and universities since their founding in 1968 recognized that these place-based, culturally-rooted institutions transformed lives and communities. Through the support of Strada Education Network and a partnership with Gallup, we are able to provide the data to back this up. Our graduates tell the story of our success as tribal institutions. More support for tribal colleges and universities would expand this transformative experience to more Native and rural citizens.”

The Alumni of Tribal Colleges and Universities Better Their Communities survey report is the result of a survey of 5,000 American Indian College Fund scholars to gather information about the value of an education rooted in Native American values. The survey was funded by a grant to the American Indian College Fund by the Strada Education Network.

To download a copy of the report, please visit

About the American Indian College Fund

Founded in 1989, the American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 30 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer" and provided 5,896 scholarships last year totaling $7.65 million to American Indian students, with more than 131,000 scholarships and community support totaling over $200 million since its inception. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. 

For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit

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