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Full Tuition Program for Indigenous Students Announced

Annabella Castillo, staff writer

Photo of Indigenous students Alyssa Parkhurst and Drew Gross in the Oyate Commons taken by Olivia Allery on Feb. 24, 2022

As schools across the country become more socially conscious, they make greater strides toward equitable education. Augsburg University has taken one such step by launching a full tuition program for American Indian students.

The program, entitled the “American Indian Recognition Full Tuition Program,” will go into effect for the next academic year. Eligible American Indian students include full-time first-years, full-time transfers, and those in adult undergraduate programs. They must also be working towards their first bachelor’s degree. For the purposes of the program, “American Indian” is defined as a member of a federally recognized American Indian tribe, Alaskan Native Village or Canadian First Nation. Additionally, direct descendents of enrolled or tribally verified members are eligible. Direct descendents include children and grandchildren. Students do not have to live in the state or prove residence on trust land.

“The systemic injustices that have limited access to higher education for many American Indian students need structural solutions,” said Joanne Reeck, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion, in an official press release. “This program is one step that we as an institution can take.”

Students interested in the program need to fill out their FAFSA. If their family income is over $125,000, the program will cover “unmet need” for the student. This is the remaining tuition and fees calculated after subtracting their Estimated Family Contribution. For students with a family income under $125,000, the program will cover the remaining tuition after federal and state aid. Additional costs such as meal plans, transportation, textbooks and housing are not included.

This program can be renewed for up to eight full-time terms for undergraduate students or until degree completion for adult undergraduates. To be considered, eligible students must display “a commitment, grounded in lived experience, to recognizing the importance and diversity of American Indians in higher education.” The amount of aid is subject to change according to the FAFSA, which must be completed every year.

Augsburg University is an incredibly diverse college, with 58% of its current undergraduate day program being students of color. That number continues to increase as Minneapolis itself becomes more diverse. The university itself has shown a willingness to look past numbers and see students as people, exemplified in the recent change to become a test-free college – one that doesn’t even consider ACT or SAT scores in applications. For years before that, it was test-optional.

“As a member of the Augsburg community, going through the creation and implementation of the new program provided me a very deep learning process,” said Robert Gould, Vice President for Strategic Enrollment Management. “I had to learn a lot about the context of the American Indian experience and this program from a student lens, and I’m thankful that the students really guided me through it.”

With this new program, Augsburg again sets itself apart from other universities. The American Indian Recognition Full Tuition Program is one of the first of its kind to not require state residency or proof of residence on trust land in order to be in the program. 

Higher education has statistically, throughout its history, been biased toward BIPOC students through the difficulty to be admitted and even more difficulty to receive aid. Institutions like Augsburg are striving to bridge this systemic gap by employing programs that promote equity. This new program brings hope for a brighter and more just future for American Indian students.

Students who have further questions about the program can contact Robert J. Gould at gouldr2@augsburg.edu.