Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Documenting American Indian Success: AIHEC Says It Has All the Data Federal Officials Need to Determine That Tribal Colleges Are Grant-Worthy

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Documenting American Indian Success: AIHEC Says It Has All the Data Federal Officials Need to Determine That Tribal Colleges Are Grant-Worthy

Article excerpt

In light of their new report on American Indian college student achievement, leaders of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium were stunned to hear that the U.S. Department of Education cited "insufficient data" and "results not demonstrated" as explanations for a huge cut for tribal college funding in President Bush's proposed 2008 education budget. Tribal colleges are funded under Title III of the Education Act, which provides aid to developing institutions. Bush has proposed cutting their funding by 20 percent, to $18.6 million.

AIHEC says the new report, "American Indian Measures for Success," is an innovative, comprehensive data instrument that defines and measures the success of American Indians at the nation's tribal colleges. The report, presented to a number of federal agencies this year, details the systemic and culturally based approaches to American Indian student success, according to AIHEC President Cheryl Crazy Bull. The report, she says, includes information that numbers alone cannot convey. In addition to standard information on student enrollment, retention and graduation, AIMS examines how effectively tribal colleges work to meet their individual missions, which include revitalizing local cultures and improving communities' economic and traditional well-being.

The report includes information that is often requested by various federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Education Department and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. AIMS creators say they made special efforts to make the data compatible with these agencies' reporting requirements, and also invited representatives from several of the agencies to serve on the report's advisory committee. The Education Department declined to participate.

Officials at the Education Department now say the proposed funding reduction is not based on the colleges' performance, but represent an attempt to cut construction grants "because of past substantial funding to [tribal colleges]--a total of $44 million benefiting 27 institutions since 2001," says an Education Department spokesperson.

That amounts to about $1.6 million for each of the 27 institutions over a period of six years, which is only a fraction of what comparable mainstream institutions receive, says Carrie L. Billy, the deputy director of AIHEC and one of the authors of the AIMS study. …

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