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2018-05-10 / Voices

Increase College Degrees Among Natives


We at the Denver-based national non-profit, the American Indian College Fund, were angry to learn about the incident at Colorado State University. People of color deserve to be included in higher education like anyone else.

College visits are an important part of the precollege experience, and we encourage potential students to visit colleges to feel safe and accepted at the college of their choice. It is upsetting when Native students are hesitant to consider a college based on experiences, such as what occurred at Colorado State University (CSU).

American Indians and Alaska Natives have a 14% degree-attainment rate, according to the National Center for Education statistics—which is less than half of the national average.

Colleges and universities must promote access to an equitable higher education for Native American students by investing in education, resources, and processes to eliminate institutionalized racism and to provide an equitable education. Native American students comprised only 1% of CSU’s undergraduate and graduate student body in 2015, according to the CSU web site.

We urge higher education institutions to join us in our efforts to increase the numbers of Native people with college degrees by making their institutions more welcoming. They can acknowledge the indigenous people on whose lands work is being done and where institutions exist; implement training to help students, faculty, and staff to name racism when it happens; train college personnel about indigenous culture, history, and inclusion; and examine existing curriculum to ensure fair representation of Native people’s history, accomplishments, and contributions. Finally, we urge higher education institutions to report on the status of Native American students at their institutions by including their student data in all institutional data points.

Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota) has more than 30 years of experience working in education with American Indian institutions.

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