Obama Administration Urged to Further Support Tribal Schools

The Obama Administration has given an extra $3 million in federal funds to Oglala Lakota’s College budget this year, writes Mary Garrigan at the Rapid City Journal.

The Tribal College president Tom Shortbull has thanked officials, but said that what the country’s tribal colleges really need is the president’s signature on a long-delayed Indian Education executive order.

William Mendoza, the acting director of the Department of Education’s White House Initiative for Tribal Colleges and Universities, got an earful about the failure of the president to keep tribal colleges on the radar screens of all federal agencies with an executive order, when he went to the OLC campus in Kyle on Wednesday to talk about tribal college successes.

“We are very disappointed. We are insisting that an executive order for tribal colleges be signed,” Shortbull said before setting an end-of-year deadline that he wants Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and President Barack Obama to meet.

“He really has to sign one before he leaves office. Without one, it takes the tribal colleges off their radar screens,” he said.

Cynthia Lundquist, president of Candeska Cikana Community College in Fort Totten, N.D., said tribal colleges and universities do their best with what they have, but could do so much more with additional funding, writes Dirk Lammers of the Associated Press at The Republic.

“We do our best with the limited resources we have to have our students succeed.”

Duncan and Obama have waited to issue an Indian Education executive order because they want to take a broader spectrum approach to educational issues for Native American students, say Mendoza. But he promised to take Shortbull’s deadline message back to the secretary, writes Garrigan.

“We are really working hard to meet that deadline. We’ve laid some important ground and the president wants to make sure it is in place for a new executive order … to help meet his 2020 College Completion goals,” Mendoza said. The DOE wants the new order to encompass non-education issues on reservations that impact educational ones, he said.

“What are those connections and how can we better work with those stakeholders that have the most at play?” he said.

In the meantime, Mendoza noted, Duncan sent 63 DOE grants worth $53 million to tribal colleges last year, which were made possible in part by savings from administrative changes to the federal student loan program, writes Garrigan.

There are 36 tribal colleges and universities in 14 states that serve about 30,000 students – some are full time, others are part time. Of those, 21 percent are non-Natives. At OLC, about 13 percent of students are not Native American.

Shortbull suggested the DOE set a policy prohibiting all federal education funding to any state that does not subsidize tribal colleges within its borders.

Matthew Tabor

Matthew Tabor

Matthew is a prolific, independent voice in the national education debate. He is a tireless advocate for high academic standards from pre-K through graduate school, fiscal sense and personal responsibility. He values parents’ and families’ rights and believes in accountability for teachers, administrators, politicians and all taxpayer-funded education entities. With a unique background that includes work in higher education, executive recruiting, professional sport and government, Matthew has consulted on new media and communication strategies for a broad range of clients. He writes the blog “Education for the Aughts” at www.matthewktabor.com , has contributed to National Journal’s ‘Expert’ blog for Education , and interacts with the education community on Twitter and Google+.