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(Many Paths)
An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America
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Advancing Students, One Scholarship At A Time
by Sam Deloria for Indian Country Today
For 41 years the American Indian Graduate Center has made higher education more attainable for American Indians/Alaska Natives by providing scholarships and mentor programs – giving undergraduate and graduate students alike the opportunity to obtain college degrees or certifications and develop professionally. Since 1969, we have helped more than 15,000 AI/AN students obtain a post-secondary education with more than $44 million in scholarship awards.

As I reflect on the collective accomplishments of the students, donors, mentors and other people who have made the AIGC the success that it is, it is equally important to look at the road ahead of us, as Native Americans and advocates of educational advancement, and understand the unique challenges facing our students today.

We have helped more than 15,000 American Indian and Alaska Native students obtain a post-secondary education with more than $44 million in scholarship awards.

As I analyze these challenges, I’m reminded of the children’s rhyme about two people sitting in a tree. “First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in the baby carriage.” Equate this rhyme to the educational process and you’ll see what I mean – first comes financing, then comes school, then comes the job in the workforce pool.

First comes financing. The cost of graduate education tuition and fees on average tripled from 1987 to 2009 according to the National Center on Educational Statistics. Per academic year, cost of tuition and fees alone for a public post-baccalaureate degree is over $8,000 and over $20,000 for a private institution. Professional degrees range from $15,000 for a public education through $55,000 for a private education.

These numbers do not include the rising costs of books, housing, transportation, technology, professional development travel and other personal expenses necessary to maintain a basic standard of living which can vary depending on the location of the institution. AIGC continues to seek funding to reduce some of these costs for qualified applicants. Scholarships made to American Indians and Alaska Natives are absolutely necessary in financing all or part of the tremendous financial burden our young scholars face.

Grant aid from state, private and employer sources slowed in the second half of the 1999-2000 to 2009-10 decade – a group that comprised 20 percent of total grant aid in the 2009-10 year, according to College Board’s 2010 Trends in Student Aid report. Forty-four percent of undergraduate and graduate grant aid came from the federal government, and the remaining 36 percent came from colleges and universities.

Then comes school. Many AIGC scholarship recipients are first generation college students within their family to pursue a bachelor’s degree and statistically, significantly more are first generation community members to pursue graduate level degrees. Through a variety of scholarship programs in every discipline of study, AIGC provides scholarship support to help these pioneers – in their own right – on their path toward success.

AI/AN continue to be the least represented of all minority groups in the country within fields requiring advanced degrees. It is estimated that nearly 50 percent of Indian students across the nation do not finish high school. Of those who do graduate from high school, only 17 percent will go on to any form of college, compared with a national average of 62 percent, according to a 1999 Indian Country Today report.

Therefore, AIGC seeks out strategic partners with national Indian student organizations.

Then comes the job in the workforce pool. At the national level, we’ve faced a wavering economic climate for years. This has created a challenging environment for job seekers nationwide, many of whom are stepping into the workforce for the first time after obtaining a college education. Even still, we are proud to count presidential advisors, successful lawyers, active policy makers, hard-working health professionals, leading educators and cutting edge scientists among our funded alumni. AIGC utilizes these alumni – and others who support our mission – to provide our students with the mentorship and academic support to best position them for a successful entry into the workforce.

I may not have a future in revising children’s rhymes, but as director of AIGC, I am confident in the AI/AN trailblazers within the society of higher education. AIGC offers the tools and support necessary for entry into post-secondary education, but it is ultimately the students’ drive that brings them to the commencement walk.

In 2009, AIGC awarded 401 graduate and professional degree scholarships and 32 undergraduate scholarships. The AIGC Scholars provided more than 500 scholarships to students pursuing both undergraduate and graduate degrees. In 2010, our goal is to continue building relationships with companies that are proven advocates for higher education – creating additional scholarships and opportunities for educational support to our constituents. Together, we will demonstrate a strong commitment to higher education and American Indian leadership development through continued scholarship awards and mentoring opportunities.

Sam Deloria is director of the American Indian Graduate Center, a national organization headquartered in Albuquerque, N.M. that provides scholarships to American Indian and Alaska Native students pursuing graduate and professional degrees.

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American Indian Graduate Center
The American Indian Graduate Center is a national organization headquartered in Albuquerque, New Mexico providing educational assistance to American Indian and Alaska native graduate students throughout the country. Since its founding in 1969, AIGC has awarded more than 15,000 scholarships totaling over $44 million to graduate students in all fields of study.

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