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Journal of College Student Development 45.2 (2004) 221-230

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An Analysis of Funding Allocations to Student Services at Tribal Colleges and Universities, 1991 to 1995:

Years of Leverage?

The development and expansion of tribal colleges and universities (TCU), which serve predominately American Indians and Alaska Natives, is a recent occurrence within the U.S. system of higher education. According to Brown (2003), historically TCUs were created "in response to the lack of access to higher education for American Indian people, and the low rate of success American Indians were experiencing in mainstream institutions" (p. 36). In terms of contemporary significance, Pavel, Inglebret, and Banks (2001) found that TCUs were important to higher education in the areas of their cultural characteristics and retention issues affiliated with American Indian and Alaska Native students. They also found that " the higher education community is largely unaware of TCUs, their unique attributes, and their similarities to other institutions of higher education (IHE)," and noted "the dismal track record of many IHEs at recruiting and retaining AI [American Indian] and AN [Alaska Native] students" (p. 51).Finally, Benham (2002) found that TCUs have adhered to their original mission of self-determination in the sense that "self-determination has increasingly defined TCUs as truly engaged community institutions—involved in every aspect of community life" (p. 2).

The first TCU, Navajo Community College in Arizona or currently known as Diné College, was opened in 1968. Currently, there are 34 tribally sanctioned institutions in 12 states, of which all offer two-year degrees, four offer four-year degrees, and two offer master's degrees (Benham, 2002; Pavel et al., 2001; Phillips, 2003). In the early 1970s, TCUs started the [End Page 221] American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to consolidate their power base and form a national movement for the creation and development of further TCUs. In 1994, the AIHEC helped to push for the support and passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which was a part of the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act, endowing TCUs with a new status as land-grant institutions (AIHEC, 1999a; Phillips, 2003). Thus, in just 25 years, TCUs had been transformed from an idea to land-grant status.

Historically, a majority of the funding for TCUs originated from the federal government either through the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act of 1978 or as Title I funds (Pease-Pretty on Top, 2003). When examining the issue of overall funding for TCUs, a disconcerting picture emerges (AIHEC, 2001; Phillips, 2003). For example, Pavel et al. (1998) found that in the mid-1990s, the full-time equivalent (FTE) was approximately $2,900 per full-time student at a TCU, which was about less than half of the national average per FTE.

Demographically, the most recent data, from the 2000 academic year, showed that American Indians and Alaska Natives comprised an enrolled population of 151,200 students within the American system of higher education, or approximately 1% of the total enrolled population of over 15 million students. Of the 151,200 matriculated American Indians and Alaska Natives, 61,400 were men, 89,700 were women, 138,500 were undergraduates, and nearly half (i.e., 70,100) went to public two-year institutions. Of these undergraduate students, 41.8% reported receiving Cs, Ds, or lower; 16.9% received Bs and Cs; 23.3% received mostly Bs; 9.7% received As and Bs; and 8.3% received mostly As. These marks were very equivalent to data that were reported for the group termed "Hispanic" and the group termed "Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander," but surpassed all of the averages reported for the group termed "Black" ("2003-2004 Almanac Issue," 2003, pp. 12, 15).


When adhering to the theoretical framework of regarding the whole student, both in terms of academics and cocurricular learning (American Association for High Education, American College Personnel Association (ACPA), & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 1998; ACPA, 1996), questions surface pertaining to TCUs. That...


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