Ryan Winn: Tribal colleges committed to improving lives of all

The College of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin. Photo from Facebook

Ryan Winn of the College of the Menominee Nation in Wisconsin responds to a report that questioned whether tribal colleges are successful:
It’s been more than three months since you published your deeply flawed article, “Tribal colleges give poor return on more than $100 million a year in federal money,” and I’m waiting for you to admit to cherry-picking quotes and arriving at sensational conclusions. I thought that by now the published rebuttals of your piece would’ve prompted you to recant your story, but it seems you’re determined to stand by your incomplete analysis. Yet before I write off your journalistic credibility based upon flawed assertions such as “tribal colleges often have abysmal success rates,” I’m compelled to do my part to help you see the error of your ways. The question is: What’s the best way to teach you how to listen?

Would you listen if I reminded you that Marybeth Gasman and Ginger Stull of the Huffington Post thought your article should have been titled, “Tribal Colleges give remarkable return on a meager $100 million a year in federal funding”? Gasman and Stull cite that tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) “serve roughly 30,000 full and part-time students,” pointing out that $100 million divided among all of these students is about $3,333 per student per year. They also note that 20 percent of TCU students are non-Native, meaning that no federal dollars are contributed towards the cost of their education. Moreover, some TCUs “appear to over spend” on the “services that they offer to the public,” because they are dedicated to the communities they serve.

Would you listen if I told you that your comparison of the costs of a degree at a TCU and one at Harvard University or the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is fundamentally flawed? Your point may have been to show that a degree at the Institute of American Indian Arts costs the federal government more than a degree at the other two institutions, but the premise of your comparisons misrepresents reality. While the 34 TCUs collectively receive only $100 million annually, in the past few years, Harvard and MIT have each received up to $656 million and $489 million, respectively. Moreover, on average, a degree at a TCU costs a student $14,566 annually, which is below the national average of $20,234 and far from Harvard’s $65,150 or MIT’s $61,030 annual rate. Since your article was examining the return on federal investment, you must admit that TCUs are succeeding at elevating Native lives at a cost unmatched by those schools.

Get the Story:
Ryan Winn: Tribal Colleges Give Remarkable Return on Investment (Indian Country Today 3/23)

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Hechinger Report: Tribal colleges see lower graduation rates (11/28)

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