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Bill ups funding for U.S. tribal colleges

February 21st, 2014 | Jillian Rogers Print this article   Email this article  

Last week, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich co-sponsored the Native Adult Education and Literacy Act, a bill that expands access to adult education funds for tribal colleges.

Along with senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-HI) and Jerry Moran (R-KS), Begich gave a nod to the act, which would free up money from the Workforce Investment Fund for competitive grants to tribal colleges and Native Hawaiian Education Organizations. In Alaska, Ilisagvik College in Barrow is the only tribal college.

"This bill reduces red tape, strengthens our workforce and makes our economy stronger by opening up funding opportunities for higher education targeted to reach Alaska Natives, Native Americans, and Native Hawaiians," said Begich in a statement. "Alaska Natives should be able to access culturally relevant educational programs that provide the real-world skills they need to be competitive? This bill will help tribal colleges lik?Ilisagvik College in Barro?to continue their good work by increasing access to funding."

Last year, Ilisagvik received more than $10 million from the North Slope Borough, $4.8 million from grants, contract and gifts, and with tuition and other operating revenue, earned approximately $17 million in Fiscal Year 2013.

Its expenses, which included salaries, operation and maintenance, and a transfer of funds to the Ilisagvik College Foundation, were approximately $17 million, according to the institution's annual report.

By reserving a portion of adult education and literacy funding in the Workforce Investment Act, th?Native Adult Education and Literacy Ac?would give organizations with a proven record of improving educational success for Native adults the opportunity to compete for direct grants, read the release.

And because the act utilizes existing funding, the bill would not increase spending or create a new program.

The bill also clarifies that tribal colleges are eligible providers for state sub-grants. Under current law, tribal colleges and Hawaiian organizations are rarely able to access federal funds. There has not been a similar appropriation for Native adult education programs since 1995.

"On behalf of Ilisagvik College, Alaska's first tribal college we wish to commend Senator Begich, Senator Hirono and Senator Morgan for their support of Native Adult Education," said Ilisagvik College president Pearl Brower in a statement. "For many of our Native American students tribal colleges are their only opportunity for high education access, opportunities, and success.

For many, the first step is obtaining their GEDs from these important programs across our nation. Tribal Colleges create positive, sustainable change in some of our most rural communities and regions around our nation."

In the 2012 to 2013 school year, a total of 1,894 students enrolled at Ilisagvik, while 909 took part in the Continuing Education Unit. More than 800 students enrolled in 136 distance courses offered at the college. Sixty percent of Ilisagvik students in 2012 and 2013 were Alaska Native.

Th?Native Adult Education and Literacy Act has been endorsed by organizations including the National Congress of American Indians, National Indian Education Association, and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.


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