5 Ways to Encourage Native American Students to Pursue a College Degree
5 Ways to Encourage Native American Students to Pursue a College DegreeKristin Tobias, Assistant Director, Communications
At the College Board’s annual Forum this October, Ángela Garcia, Executive Director of College and Career Access, hosted a roundtable discussion about fostering a college-going culture among Native American students.
These students face unique challenges in going to and graduating from college. According to the American Indian College Fund, only 13.6% earn a college degree. Here are five ways higher education professionals can create a support system for Native American students as they progress to and through a university experience:
- Get to know not only high school students, but also their tribes, communities, families, and extended families. Build strong relationships by participating in community events outside of school.
- Represent Native American culture on campus to make it more welcoming and comfortable. For instance, several schools in the Pacific Northwest now have a longhouse (a community center traditional to many tribes) on campus.
- Offer fee waivers. More than 28% of American Indians live below the poverty line. Even a small fee could become a barrier between these students and a college education.
- Discuss financial aid with both students and their parents. Based on discussion during the session, parents’ number one concern about sending their child to college is almost always the cost.
- Show Native American students how a degree can help them give back to their tribe. Many feel a strong sense of commitment to their community and want to know that they can return home better-equipped to support it after college.
The session began and ended with attendees forming a circle; panelists led us in song and prayer. This visual was a powerful reminder that, just as each attendee was important to the circle’s shape, professionals in all areas of higher education can play a role in creating a strong college-going culture in Native communities.