Do You Qualify for Tribal Funds?
Accessing scholarships for Native American and Alaska Native students is about perseverance and brainstorming. No one is going to drop millions of dollars in your lap, but when you know through which sources to seek college money, you have a distinct advantage. Here are your best sources:
- Professional Organizations
Are you a Member in a Federally Recognized Tribe?
Your key to qualifying for many of the scholarships is membership in one of the 561 recognized tribes in the U.S.
Don’t begin a search for Native American scholarships unless you know your ancestral status.
- Do you belong to the one of the federally recognized tribes?
- Do you have what DNA it takes to prove ancestry?
DNA: The standard requirement is proof of ¼ American Indian blood. If you must go on a genealogical search, here’s a tip: Google native american genealogy – it will generate a bounty of viable resources.
Tribal membership: if you don’t already have membership in one of the tribes you’ll want to take your genealogical information to the applicable tribal government and solicit for membership. Benefits of membership may include access to exclusive tribal scholarships and funds specifically saved for higher education.
When You’re Not Part of a Federally Recognized Tribe
There is a scholarship, the Allogan Slagle Scholarship, sponsored by the Association on American Indian Affairs that is specially offered to Native students with tribal affiliations outside the list of federally recognized tribes.
Start with the Most Obvious: Federal Programs for Native Americans
The Bureau of Indian Affairs is a government/community resource you must not overlook. The BIA has been the cornerstone of Native American legislation of all kinds for decades. It is single-handedly responsible for the administration of Indian lands and the governance of the 561 federally recognized tribes.
The department of the BIA on which you should focus part of your scholarship search is the Office of Indian Education Programs. Use this resource to find:
- List of Tribal Colleges and Universities
- Current and newsworthy programs in American Indian higher education.
Federally-Funded Tribal Colleges and Universities
Tribal colleges and universities exist in various parts of the United States, most of them in the Western part of the country. They are funded by the Department of Education and are committed to providing Native Americans with an equal opportunity when it comes to a college education. Students would be remiss in not exploring these institutions. The Office of Indian Education Programs maintains a comprehensive list of Tribal Colleges and their locations.
State-Based Aid in Areas Populated by Native Americans
Every state is not going to fund scholarships purely for Native American students. But where American Indian populations comprise a significant chunk of state territory you may find extra government money. North Dakota funds the Indian Scholarship Program, a merit and need-based $2,000 award that goes out to eligible students able to prove tribal membership and enrolling in a two- or four-year school. The Montana state university system offers generous scholarships as well as an Indian Tuition Fee Waiver. Check our list of state-based scholarships for your home state.
Minority – Corporate Partnerships Up until recently Native American students have suffered for their relatively meager population in comparison to the legions of other minority groups. But in recent years monetary support has proven a good motivator. But for students down on their luck, corporate donors offer hope and encouragement.
The American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) has built a number of fruitful partnerships with the likes of Accenture, the Gates Foundation, and Wells Fargo. The non-profit agency is one of the most influential and visible in the country right now. Besides the obvious graduate fellowships, AIGC has also assembled a few Native American undergraduate scholarship programs.
Science, Math, Engineering, and Tech Majors
In case you haven’t heard, students pursuing degrees in science, math, engineering, or technology fields (often call SMET or STEM subjects) have an advantage when it comes to winning scholarship attention. American Indian and Alaska Native students have the double whammy—minority status.
- The American Indian Science and Engineering Society has drawn on relationships with corporate sponsors to fuel the funds for a list of scholarships particularly designed for engineering and science students. Awards range from $1,000 to $3,000.
If you’re looking for diversity and have a passion for research, then open your mind to the possibility for paid summer undergraduate research opportunities, especially in the STEM subjects. Paid internships often net a few thousand dollars a month for hard work. AND this type of experience can put your college admissions application in nice position. Most of the labs and research locations that solicit for summer students invite diversity—they are often funded with federal dollars, which helps kick up a more intense search for minority, including Native American students.
- The paid summer undergrad research program at the University of Kentucky Electrical and Computer Engineering department is the perfect example of just such a program: $3200 for 8 weeks, food and housing all paid for and a flat travel stipend.
Organizations and Associations
Know what field you are intending to pursue? Explore professional associations or affiliations. Popular professional organizations often extend scholarship dough to student members
- The American Anthropological Society extends scholarship money to minorities—including Native Americans—needing doctoral support to complete their dissertations.
- The American Chemical Society is another industry-related organization that promotes diversity by making educational grant and scholarship money available to minorities, including Native Americans, for undergraduate work in chemistry-related fields.