Native American undergraduates can attend Northern Arizona University tuition-free beginning in fall 2023.
The college introduced this week that it will cover tuition for all college students who’re members of any of the state’s 22 federally acknowledged tribes.
The program is open to first-time undergraduate college students plus switch college students who enroll at NAU in Flagstaff or at a statewide website.
It’s an growth of NAU’s monetary assist initiative Access2Excellence, which will cover tuition for new undergraduate college students from Arizona households that make lower than $65,000 a year beginning in fall 2023. That’s estimated to use to about half of Arizona households. For Native American college students, there will be no household revenue cutoff.
It’s just like the University of Arizona’s Arizona Native Scholars Grant, a program that began this previous fall to totally cover tuition and costs for undergraduates from Arizona’s Native American tribes.
NAU leaders say they wish to be the nation’s main college for Indigenous peoples, they usually see this effort as a part of that broader mission.
“At NAU, we pride ourselves on our service to Native American students and the communities they represent,” President José Luis Cruz Rivera mentioned in an announcement, highlighting the transfer as key in serving to pave the way in which for success for future Native American college students.
“My thanks to our team and our engaged tribal partners who work every day to make higher education accessible and affordable to all,” Cruz Rivera mentioned.
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NAU at the moment has between 700 and 900 Native American undergraduate college students who’re tribal members, Anika Olsen, vice chairman of enrollment administration, estimates.
With the complete tuition protection supply, Olsen hopes one other few hundred college students will enroll over the following few years, particularly college students who in any other case won’t have come after seeing the tuition worth.
“We’re hoping this program removes that as a barrier and sends a clear message to students and families,” Olsen mentioned.
NAU’s foremost campus in Flagstaff is near 11 tribal nations, together with the nation’s largest, the Navajo Nation, in response to the college. NAU additionally has packages at 20 areas throughout the state. The majority of Native American college students at NAU are Navajo, although different tribes are also represented.
“On the Navajo Nation, thousands of students graduate from high school each year. For many, going to college is not affordable,” Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez, an NAU alumnus and member of the school’s Native American advisory board, said in a statement. “Navajo students will be encouraged to know that they can go to NAU without having to worry about how they will pay for tuition.”
Who is eligible for the free tuition?
Starting in the fall, new first-year and transfer undergraduates who are Arizona tribal members will have their tuition covered.
Students who live outside of Arizona but are members of one of the state’s 22 tribes are also eligible.
The 22 federally recognized tribes in Arizona are: Ak-Chin Indian Community, Cocopah Indian Tribe, Colorado River Indian Tribes, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, Gila River Indian Community, Havasupai Tribe, Hopi Tribe, Hualapai Tribe, Kaibab Band of Paiute Indians, Navajo Nation, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Pueblo of Zuni, Quechan Tribe, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, San Carlos Apache Tribe, San Juan Southern Paiute Tribe, Tohono O’odham Nation, Tonto Apache Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation and Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe.
The tuition coverage will last four years. NAU will cover full tuition, but not fees, which are currently $1,250 for Arizona undergraduates at the Flagstaff campus. Fees can vary by campus and college.
University aid dollars will fill any gaps after other scholarships or Pell Grant funds to fully cover tuition. Students who get tribal scholarships can use that money for fees, housing, meals or books, as tribal scholarships won’t go towards tuition, according to the university.
Native American students who apply to NAU should self-report their ethnicity and tribal enrollment. They should also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Undergraduates already at NAU are not eligible. Current students shouldn’t see their scholarships affected by this new program, Olsen said. Those students are grandfathered in on the financial aid and scholarship programs they already had.
NAU had “no new buckets of money” to make this happen, Olsen said, but rather realigned its financial aid strategy as part of broader efforts to expand access for students.
Supporting students beyond tuition
Enrolling Indigenous students is important, but also essential is making sure they have a “sense of belonging” at NAU, Olsen said. That’s a key part of the university’s vision of being the leading institution serving Native American students.
The Office of Indigenous Student Success is one way the university attempts that, providing resources and support to students through programming and outreach. And the Native American Cultural Center on campus is a space for students to find support and for the community to learn about Indigenous histories and cultures.
“It’s not simply sheer numbers” of scholars, Olsen mentioned. “The recruitment piece and bringing students in is one thing. We don’t want to recruit students and bring them here if they’re not going to be successful, and so that sense of belonging and the student services are key in making that happen.”
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