Tribal colleges and universities (also known as TCUs) are educational institutions that are designated to offer Native Americans higher education within their own tribe. In 1968, the first tribal college was established in the United States. Now, there is an abundance of TCUs all across the country!
What are tribal colleges and universities?
As former President Barack Obama said, “TCUs maintain, preserve, and restore Native languages and cultural traditions, offer a high quality college education, provide career and technical education, job training, and other career building programs, and often serve as anchors in some of the country’s poorest and most remote areas.” Currently, tribal colleges and universities serve approximately 88,000 students. The governing bodies of tribes control the administration of the universities, but are primarily funded by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 1978. There is a wide variety of age within the student body ranging from young adults to senior citizens. Even though TCUs have a broad age range, individual tribe identity is woven into the fabrics of the colleges. Preserving tribal culture is a primary focus of the colleges, and they work to preserve their traditions through all aspects of their classes, curriculums, and programs.
What do they offer?
Tribal colleges and universities offer a specialized environment for Native American students to earn a degree. Even though these universities are mostly restricted to members of a federally recognized tribe, they still deliver extensive education programs. According to the U.S. Department of Education, there are around 350 programs available. These programs include degrees, certificates, diplomas, and apprenticeships. Just like a public university, there are options to pursue an associate or bachelor’s degree. Additionally, there are a few institutions that offer master’s degree programs.
TCUs are important in giving a sound support system to rural Native American tribes. They are often a major resource for communities who value their native heritage. The American Indian College Fund reports that tribal students who attend a TCU graduate at a rate of 86 percent as compared to less than 10 percent who attend a mainstream university. Students who attend these colleges continue on to use their knowledge for their own tribe or venture outside of their community.
List of TCUs
Here is a list of TCUs for you to explore! For an extensive list of Tribal Colleges and Universities, visit the website of the White House Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education. It includes a map of tribal college locations as well as website links, important contact information, and statistics about each university.