chapter  6
16 Pages

Linking Tribal Colleges and Mainstream Institutions: Fundamental Tensions and Lessons Learned

From their inception, tribaI colleges have been linked with mainstream institutions ofhigher education. Indeed, their very existence came about because existing systems of higher education were failing large numbers of American Indian students. As Boyer (1997) noted:

Especially since [enactment of] the GI Bill and the Higher Education Act, the federal govemment, as weIl as individual colleges and universities, had encouraged Indian students to emoll. But as more did, it became clear that access did not guarantee academic success. The dropout rate for American Indians remained at 90 percent or higher at many institutions. (p. 25)

A case in point was the experience of the Navajo Nation, which had established a higher education scholarship fund in 1957, and discovered in 1959 that more than half of the scholarship recipients were dropping out of college by the end of their freshman year. Thus, when the Navajo educational

leaders began talking about establishing a tribai community or junior college, representatives of state universities and community colleges were invited to participate in these deliberations. The last such public meeting, in May 1968, before Navajo Community College was chartered, involved representatives of Arizona State University and the Arizona Junior College Board. Such involvement "alleviated public criticism of the [tribai college] idea by state higher education institutions" (Stein, 1992, p. 11). In fact, Arizona State University has remained an ally of the Navajo college, renamed Dine College in 1997, and is helping that college establish its first baccalaureate program, with assistance under the W K. Kellogg Foundation's Native American Higher Education Initiative (NAHEI) .