Two tribal colleges whose budgets have been repeatedly cut by the Bush administration have finally found a political solution to their budget problems.
Become a favorite of Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne.
That appears to be the only way to ensure the United
Tribes Technical College in North Dakota and
Navajo Technical College in New Mexico won't end up
on the cutting floor again. For the past six years,
both institutions have had their budgets zeroed out
by the administration.
David Gipp, the president of UTTC, has tried to figure out why.
For more than 30 years, the Bureau of Indian Affairs always funded the school
up until President Bush came on board in 2001.
Given UTTC's strong tribal support and academic success, Gipp
told the Senate Indian Affairs Committee last Thursday
that he couldn't understand how that happened.
He finally found out at a meeting with the White House
Office of Management and Budget.
"The most frank answer I've received from this administration
is that until you're a favorite of the secretary of the
Interior, you're not going to get funding," he said.
"It's a political question.
Congress has repeatedly restored funds to UTTC and NTC,
citing their benefits for tribes and students.
Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-North Dakota), the chairman of
the committee, said tribal colleges help people with
limited options for higher education become successful.
"Tribal colleges allow that opportunity to exist," he said
at the hearing.
"For those reasons, I strongly support the tribal collect
But there are two major obstacles facing UTTC and NTC.
One is the administration's focus on K-12 education,
through the No Child Left Behind Act, which means
the entire tribal college system is not a priority.
"We're trying to make the most of the funds we do have,"
said assistant secretary Carl Artman, in his first appearance
before the committee since taking control of the BIA.
The second obstacle is the law. According to the administration,
UTTC and NTC don't quality for
funding under the same act of Congress as the other 30-plus
tribal colleges, so there is nothing holding the BIA
accountable for these institutions.
Members of Congress from both parties have repeatedly restored
money to the two schools. But Elmer Guy, the president of
Navajo Technical College, said the lack of support from
the administration places uncertainty and stress on
"Education is about the future, and
when the future is clouded and troubles seems to always verge on creating
disaster, then planning efforts go awry, key professionals look for other jobs,
students question if they should make a decision that is in their best interest, and
keeping everyday tasks going gets harder," Guy's testimony stated.
To prevent uncertainty in the future,
the American Indian Higher Education Consortium, which represents
all the tribal colleges, wants Congress to amend the law
to include UTTC and NTC.
The group also wants Congress to increase the base level
of funding, as well as future funding, for the colleges.
As for the political question, Dorgan pressed Artman, a member of
the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, to become a "missionary" for
He said he hoped the 2009 budget proposal -- the last of the Bush
administration -- would finally contain money for UTTC and NTC.
"I know you want to be there to make a difference," Dorgan
told Artman. "We want to help you make a difference."
HEARING on Tribal Colleges and Universities
(April 12, 2007)
American Indian College Fund - http://collegefund.org
American Indian Higher Education Consortium - http://www.aihec.org
Colleges and Universities - http://www.ed.gov/about/inits/list/whtc/edlite-index.html
Related Stories:Senate committee hearing on tribal colleges
(4/12) Menominee Nation
College brings hope to tribe
Rave: Tribal colleges press for federal funds
(4/6) SCIA sets April 12 meeting, hearing on tribal
(4/4) Transfer agreement helps
tribal college graduates
Dakota tribal colleges discuss funding bill
(3/6) Bill opens scholarships to tribal college students
(2/28) American Indian College Fund
receives $17.5M grant
Tribal colleges deserve state funds
(2/8) Editorial: Tribal colleges deserve state funds
(2/8) North Dakota tribal college bill
(2/6) North Dakota tribal
college funding bill endorsed
(2/2) North Dakota tribal colleges seek state funds
(1/24) Editorial: Tribal colleges
deserve state funds
(1/23) North Dakota
tribal colleges seek state funding
(1/19) Tribal colleges find ways to help students succeed
(1/5) Oglala Lakota College receives
$100K from state
(12/19) Pawnee Nation
College wins $10K grant from NEA
(12/18) Fort Berthold tribal college signs partnership
(12/13) Bush announces new members of
tribal college board
colleges educate non-Native students
(11/29) American Indian College Fund runs ad campaign
(10/05) College in Barrow is Alaska's first
(07/28) New director for
White House Tribal College Initiative
(01/20) Tribal budget advisory council backs tribal
(03/01) Bush budget seeks cuts
to Indian education programs
(02/10) Bush administration budget slashes BIA programs
(02/08) Nation's tribal colleges struggle to
make ends meet
(02/07) Johnson expects
tough times for Indian initiatives
(01/18) Congress restores Bush's cuts to Indian
(11/22) Tribal colleges awarded
millions in federal grants
(08/06) Tribal college board seeking boosts in