Gardner, Bennet Introduce Native American Indian Education Act

Washington, DC ­- Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO) and Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) announced today that they have introduced The Native American Indian Education Act in the United States Senate to provide relief to State education budgets currently fulfilling a federal mandate to provide tuition-free higher education opportunities for Native American Indians.

The Act addresses federal-state agreements which required, as part of a land grant agreement, that States finance Native American tuition at certain universities in perpetuity. One such agreement, at Fort Lewis College in Colorado, covered just a few dozen students when it was originally struck in 1910. Today, over 1,123 American Indian and Alaska native students from over 162 tribes nationwide attend Fort Lewis college, and the State of Colorado is bearing much of the cost of tuition waivers and other expenses, which exceed $16 million per year.  

This Act ensures the tuition wavier program will continue, but updates the program to reflect the current day reality of educational costs and make the federal-state arrangement as equitable as it was originally intended. The Act ensures that the cost of educating Native American and Alaska native students from across the country does not fall solely on individual states, thereby having the federal government live up to its commitment to provide educational opportunities to Native students.

“Fort Lewis College and institutions like it provide fantastic opportunities and a great education to Native and non-Native students alike,” Gardner said. “With students coming from regions and tribes across the United States to get an education, it no longer makes sense to have the cost of that education born by single states. It’s time to reform this system to ensure that Native American education is the national priority that it should be.”

“At a time when higher education is becoming a prerequisite for success in the 21st century economy, this program is crucial to helping Native American students who may otherwise struggle to afford college,” Bennet said. “Colorado’s Fort Lewis College offers a tremendous opportunity for Native American students, and it’s time for the federal government to step in and help ensure this waiver remains viable.”