Levi Rickert, editor-in-chief in Native Currents. Discussion »
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA The American Indian Higher Education Consortium, the collective spirit and unifying voice of the 37 tribal colleges and universities in Indian country, released information on Friday about the long-term negative impact the sequestration will have on the tribal colleges and universities. Some 88,000 American Indians and Alaska Native students and community members are served by these higher education institutions.
The sequestration - across-the-board cuts - went into effect on March 1 as a means to reduce the federal deficit.
Carrie Billy Navajo
“Sequestration undermines the trust, treaty, and statutory obligations to American Indian tribal governments. It is a travesty to democracy and could be cataclysmic for American Indian higher education, which impacts every aspect of life in our nation's tribal communities and reservations,”
said Carrie L. Billy, Navajo, president and chief executive officer of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.
“To be clear, we are not seeking any handouts. We are only asking that Congress find a solution that avoids doing away with programs and services on which the nation's only tribal institutions of higher education and their American Indian students rely. It is not too late. Congress has until March 27, before the continuing resolution that is keeping the government functioning expires,”
The following are a few examples to illustrate the effects of this first seven-month phase of sequestration on tribal colleges and universities:
Sitting Bull College, on the Standing Rock Sioux reservation in North Dakota and South Dakota, faces a cut of nearly $1 million. In addition to shifting health insurance costs to employees, freezing salaries, and eliminating planned COLAs, the college will be forced to close its doors this summer, which means the elimination of programs for high school and middle school students and the potential cancellation of the college's annual Lakota Language Summit, at a time when Native languages are threatened with extinction.
Fort Peck Community College, on the remote Fort Peck reservation in northeastern Montana, will be forced to close its community-based Wellness Centers in both Poplar and Wolf Point, eliminate its GED and Adult Basic Education program, and end extracurricular activities for students. These cuts could trigger a devastating domino effect since American Indians have higher high school drop-out rates and higher mortality rates from diabetes, accidents, liver disease, suicide, homicide, and chronic liver disease compared with other racial and ethnic groups.
Little Big Horn College, in Crow Agency, Montana, will lose $225,000 from its basic institutional operations budget, which translates to the loss of two faculty positions and the elimination of its summer session. Students who need to meet requirements to complete their associate's degree programs will now require more time to graduate, increasing costs to students, families, and the federal government. The college is also considering a four-day summer work week, essentially cutting staff incomes by 20 percent. For the hard working staff at the college-some of whom are single parents and many of whom support extended families-a cut of this magnitude goes far beyond eliminating luxuries. It means the elimination of food, gas, and daycare.
College of Menominee Nation, in Keshena, Wisconsin, faces a cut of $1.1 million, which equates to the loss of funding for 35 employees, the projected loss of 100 or more American Indian students, and the elimination of some courses of study-crippling the economic growth potential of this small, rural community.
Ilisagvik College, in Barrow, Alaska-one of the most remote and isolated parts of the country-would experience a cut of $355,000. This will directly impact the college's Student Success Center activities, including tutors, learning center staff, and student support services. The college will also be analyzing their distance education costs, teacher education programs, and library services, which are in all eight communities across Alaska's North Slope. Ilisagvik's thriving Extension program and summer camp bridging programs for Native Alaskan youth are also threatened by these cuts.
“It would be a real disaster if we were to lose these funds,”
said Pearl Brower, Ilisagvik College president.
posted March 4, 2013 9:10 am est