Tribal Colleges and Universities Face Inadequate Funding

by Vins
Published: Updated:

The United States is failing to fund Tribal Colleges and Universities across the country. As Cheryl Crazy Bull and Sara Goldrick-Rab reported for The Hechinger Report in September 2020, Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are more than just an educational institution; they provide a wealth of vital resources for reservation communities. These institutions do not typically receive funding from local or state governments, which puts pressure on tribes themselves to come up with the funding. Unfortunately, many tribes already have limited resources and are unable to supply the funding for Tribal Colleges and Universities.

Today, 37 TCUs in the US serve some 100,000 students.

Around eighty percent of students enrolled in TCUs do not complete a four-year degree within six years, or a two-year degree within three years, often due to extreme challenges outside the classroom. Crazy Bull and Goldrick-Rab report that up to eighty percent of students have experienced food or housing insecurity, while sixty percent have worked while attending school.

In rural settings, some students must hitchhike more than forty miles to attend school. 85 percent of TCU students were eligible for Pell grants, a federal government subsidy for students with financial need. As of March 2020, twenty percent of students at TCUs reported being at risk of leaving college due to financial concerns. Faced with precarious housing and nutrition, the responsibilities of work and other commitments, it is often difficult for these students to thrive academically.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made conditions even worse. Although the CARES ACT, the economic stimulus bill passed by Congress and made law by President Trump in 2020, allocated $23 million in relief to the 37 TCUs, this was not enough to meet the challenges of providing college education to Native communities hard hit by the pandemic. TCUs need approximately $40 million annual to provide necessary resources to their communities.

Crazy Bull and Goldrick-Rab reported that the American Indian Higher Education Consortium has called on Congress “to allocate hundreds of millions of dollars in additional support to stabilize the institutions, ensure students have digital access to an education and address long-overdue facilities repairs, technology updates and upgrades needed to bring students safely back to campuses, such as HVAC/air purification systems.”


Cheryl Crazy Bull and Sara Goldrick-Rab, “Years of Neglect Have Created Devastating Consequences for Tribal Colleges,” Hechinger Report, September 14, 2020,

Student Researcher: Madison Geramoni (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Debora Paterniti (Sonoma State University)