Tribal students will have many new resources available to attend land-grant colleges and universities as a result of the “New Beginning for Tribal Students program,” created in the 2018 farm bill and unveiled recently by the Department of Agriculture.
Grant applications for the program are now available from USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The program authorizes USDA to match state funding for programs at land-grant colleges or universities that support American Indian students. The authorization is capped at $5 million per year and up to $500,000 per state. Grant applications are due June 12.
“The intention of the New Beginning for Tribal Students program is to increase the number of students recruited, retained and graduating from land-grant institutions by providing a culturally significant educational experience that they can use throughout their life,” noted NIFA Director Scott Angle.
The New Beginnings Program started at South Dakota State University (SDSU) under university President Barry Dunn, says Marshall Matz, a principal at OFW Law who has long worked with Indian Tribes. “The South Dakota delegation then proposed making it a national program, with a USDA match, and the idea was embraced by Congress on a bipartisan basis. Education must be the first step in creating a new beginning for Native American students.
“Wokini, translated from Lakota, means 'seeing a new beginning' or seeking a new vision,” he adds.
According to SDSU’s Wokini Initiative website, 9% of South Dakota’s population is identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native, but less than 1% of the state’s largest university student body represents this demographic.
“This is a historic provision of law that will provide critical funding to support American Indian students and their academic dreams,” Dunn said. “The challenges that face this demographic of students are well documented and the collective resources available to land-grant universities will help to change that path and fulfill our missions of providing access to the benefits of higher education.”
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Colleges and universities that receive the grant will use funds to support American Indian students for articulation agreements with tribal colleges; dual credit programs; recruiting; tuition and related fees; experiential learning; student services, including tutoring; counseling; academic advising; and other student services that would increase the retention and graduation rates. For more information, click here.
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