Native Americans face a lot of unambiguous challenges such as cultural ignorance, financial struggles, cultural difference, lack of peer mentors, inadequate housing, poor college preparation, etc. Things that are common for regular students are unknown for tribes and vice versa.
Most colleges and universities encourage Native community members to study. Some of them even provide adjusting programs to help newbies feel comfortable in college life. There are also Tribal colleges and universities that have been around only for a few decades but can demonstrate some successes for now.
While there are opportunities to enroll in different institutions, higher education remains financially unaffordable for many Native Americans. That's why we invite you to find out more about programs available to increase diversity and support indigenous youth.
Who are Native Americans?
It is a small minority in the United States with about 5.7 million people. These are tribes that live in somewhat wild conditions and face a lot of challenges connected to the insufficient involvement of tribal people in society.
In particular, most tribes live in poverty, lacking educational materials and opportunities. Even though some members have access to schools and textbooks, it is not enough. Besides, other people don’t understand their needs, their culture, fears, and doubts. It goes about teachers as well, because they weren't taught how to work with these people.
According to statistics, only 17% of Native Americans are getting a higher education compared to 60% of the U.S. population. Some students enroll in colleges but don’t graduate because of different life conditions.
Why do government and educational structures support native Americans?
American history remembers the unpleasant fact when, in 1928, the catastrophic consequences of federal policy became known. Then the children of American Indians attended boarding schools where manual labor was used. The teachers worked to eradicate the "Indian" students, the destruction of their culture and language.
This, of course, has been reflected in the way tribes perceive the American educational system. Another aspect that has caused the indigenous youth to refuse secondary and higher education is the fact that educational institutions do not understand their culture. Many students feel ignored and misunderstood. One of the key findings of the Becoming Visible report is that the empowering efforts are necessary to correct misconceptions about Native Americans.
Government and private financial support strive to improve the situation and correct mistakes made in the past. Youth who want to grow, gain new knowledge and skills shouldn’t be worried about money.
Types of Financial Aid Native American Students Can Apply For
Native American students have different options for obtaining financial aid for their studies. Some of them are sponsored by the state, others by nationally recognized organizations, or private institutions. Scholarships, grants, and fellowships can be proposed for all community members. There are also loans that students can borrow from financial institutions, such as banks and loan organizations.
Below you’ll find more detailed information about different non-repaid support types you can apply for.
20 Native American Scholarships
It is the most common type of financial aid that you shouldn’t repay. Scholarships are usually based on the applicant’s merit, race, religion, race, etc.
- American Indian College Fund Full Circle Scholarship. The College Fund is the largest U.S. organization that supports Native American access to higher education. The committee accepts applications annually from January 1 to May 31. All applicants receive an award or rejection notice in August. The award amount is $3000.
- AAIA Scholarship Program. AAIA is the oldest non-profit organization founded in 1922 to implement programs to protect sovereignty, preserve culture, and educate young people. You can submit your application by June 30 annually. The award amount is from $100 to $1,500. It is important to prove your roots and provide the confirmation of academic performance.
- AIGC Scholarship Program offers over 20 scholarships for undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree students. All applicants should demonstrate Tribal affiliation. Each particular scholarship has its deadlines and the award amount.
- AISES Scholarship Program provides a wide range of STEM programs and scholarships. The first thing to do is to complete the general application profile, where you will find all the open scholarships you are eligible for. It could be a Chevron Scholarship with the award amount of $5000 per year or A.T. Anderson Scholarship with the award amount of $1000-2000. The priority deadline is March 31, and the extended deadline is May 15.
- ACF Notah Begay III Scholarship. This scholarship fund was founded by professional golfer Nota Run III to help Native Americans who wish to study in the metropolitan area of Greater Albuquerque. Students may use the $1,500.00 award solely to cover academic expenses. The final application deadline is the first half of March.
- AIS Scholarship Program allows you to get $2,000 for educational purposes. The application deadline differs depending on the start of your term. It is possible to submit the application online, providing the photo, proof of heritage, biographical letter, and other required documents.
- American Indian Education Fund Scholarships. It is one of the largest programs in the United States, reaching 225 students annually who receive $450,000. The mission of this service is to empower indigenous to leverage their education opportunities. The deadline is in April, but it is appreciated if you submit your application by March 1.
- Catching the Dream Scholarship Program. Catching the Dream has been working to improve the quality of life in Indian communities for over 30 years. It provides scholarships to students with academic achievement, leadership qualities, and ambition. The range of CTD scholarships is $500-$5,000 per year. Deadlines for upcoming semesters are in March, April, and September 15.
- CSDIW Native American Scholarship. The Daughters of the Indian Wars Continental Society awards two scholarships each year for non-registered tribal members who plan to work with Native Americans. The annual deadline for candidates is June 15th. Reward amount: $2,500 and $5,000.
- DAR American Indian Scholarship is awarded to candidates who meet three criteria: blood, financial needs, and academic success. This is a one-time award of $4,000. The deadline is January 31st.
- IHS Scholarship Program applicants must be members of a recognized Tribe. It is a scholarship for health profession degree programs. It covers tuition, required fees, and other expenses. The monthly support is at least $1500. Submitting an application, consider the deadline: the application cycle opens in December.
- ITC Truman D. Picard Scholarship supports students pursuing higher education in Natural Resources. It can be Forest Management, Environmental Management, Hydrology, Environmental Engineering, etc. The deadline is in March.
- NCAIED American Indian Business Scholarship Program is a scholarship for students who are majoring in a business-related field. Applications are evaluated on several criteria such as grades, community involvement, personal challenges, business experience, and motivation letter. The maximum award amount is $3000.
- NAJA Facebook Journalism Project Scholarship was created to increase the number of journalists. Each of the submitted applicants can receive $10,000 for their education goals.
- NAPLP Scholarship Program helps American Indian, Alaska Native, and Hawaiian Native students learn about Washington DC, public policy, and all decision-making processes in a democratic society. The deadline is in October.
- Native Vision Johns Hopkins Scholarship Program is created for Native youth who are entering their first year of college. It is an opportunity to receive $5000 for academic expenses. The deadline is in June.
- NSCDA American Indian Nurse Scholarship Program has been working for over 90 years to help students pursue careers in nursing. Students are expected to return to their communities to develop healthcare. Fellows who maintain a good academic reputation receive $1,500 each semester.
- SAA Native American Scholarships Fund offers scholarships in support of archeological training for the preservation of indigenous culture. The award amount is up to $11000.
- Udall Undergraduate Scholarship supports college sophomores and juniors for their native community support, government service, and leadership with 55 scholarships, up to $7,000 each. The application process starts in September and ends in March.
- USET Scholarship Fund rewards students with satisfactory scholastic standing; and current enrollment or acceptance in a post-secondary educational institution. The deadline is in January.
Native Americans Educational Grants
The main difference between grants and scholarships is that they are based on students’ financial needs. Grants are usually provided by schools, state, or federal governments.
- Pell Grant is the most well-known federal program with the maximum award of $6,345. Grants are awarded to undergraduate students with exceptional financial need.
- The Native American Vocational and Technical Education Program funds technical projects to improve education for American Indian and Alaskan Native peoples. It supports applications from tribal-controlled community colleges and projects that coordinate and promote economic development plans for tribes.
- Cheyenne and Arapaho Higher Education Grants award grants for undergraduate or graduate degrees students from the tribal community. The amounts of grants are determined by the applicant’s needs. The deadlines are June 1st for Fall term; November 1st for Spring term; and April 1st for the Summer term.
- Wisconsin Indian Student Assistance Grants are available for currently enrolled students within the state of Wisconsin. The award amount is based on students’ financial needs.
This type of financial aid has some similarities with scholarships; they provide support on a merit basis. However, fellowships have more requirements such as working or volunteering tasks.
- Creighton Graduate Fellowship is a program to support students in health fields. The preference is given to tribes from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The fellowship would be reconsidered every year. Be aware of an application deadline that is on January 31.
- Eva Feryl Peterson Fellowship is developed for Native American women who are going to complete a Master of Arts program in English. Students receive an annual stipend of $2000 to supplement a Teaching Assistantship. The deadline is on February 11.
- Francis C. Allen Fellowships awarded to women who are pursuing a degree in the Humanities and Social Sciences.
- Native Hope Fellowship Program creates and supports opportunities and funding for Native American youth to develop their creative and leadership skills to improve their community.
- Native American Awards Program is a program that awards a fully-funded research project that may last up to 3 weeks. The applicant should express an interest in pursuing projects related to the Native American Indian community.
- National Science Foundation Graduate Fellowship provides research grants for STEM students. The special focus is given to minority applicants. The deadline is in October.
- Native Graduate Health Fellowship provides a financial award to help health-related students pay for their graduate studies.
What are Tribal Colleges
Colleges and universities are the primary source of teaching and preserving tribal customs and cultures.
These are unique educational institutions that provide the opportunity for Native Americans to pursue higher education. They strive to preserve the students' cultural and regional context, trying to help tribe members develop their economy and community.
The first college was founded in 1968 by Diné, Inc. By this time, there are 32 educational institutions in the United States located in areas with a high concentration of Native Americans. These are Montana, North and South Dakota, Minnesota, New Mexico, and several other states.
These colleges and universities receive little financial support from the state, so they rely on federal aid heavily. The next challenge is a small enrollment, which rarely reaches 1000 students. This is why all scholarships, grants, and other programs are pretty important.
How to Get Scholarships & Grants for Native American Students
Applying for financial support, Native American youth should complete the following tasks:
- Determine your status. Almost all scholarships and grants require proof of origin. This means that you must provide proof of registration with an Indian tribe or Alaska Native group. In addition, you must provide documents confirming the "blood quantum" which means that one-fourth of your blood is Native American.
- Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. It is a form that determines the financial needs of the student. It helps to determine which loans, grants, or work-study programs funded by the federal government you can count on.
- Find your program. You can apply for different types of financial aid at the same time if you meet their requirements. Find out which of them suits you best. For example, there are programs for women, depending on your major or the location.
- Apply for a scholarship. It is important to consider the main requirements as well as the motivation letter and deadline.
- Get confirmation. If your application is submitted, you will receive the letter with all the details about further actions.
Be attentive when reading requirements because some scholarships are created to support just 1 or 2 applicants. That’s why you should apply for all programs you’re eligible for. Don’t miss an opportunity to receive funding for your education!