Trump proposing cut in tribal scholarship funding


Mitchell Allred

The American Indian Student Center located East of Corbett Center Student Union.

President Donald Trump released his proposal of the Budget of the United States Government for Fiscal Year 2021. One notable change is a request of $0 in funding for tribal scholarships and adult education, which may have an effect on Native American students attending New Mexico State University.

As of Fall 2019, 293 Native American students were enrolled at NMSU Main Campus. Twenty-three Indian tribes are located in New Mexico which include 19 Pueblos, three Apache tribes and the Navajo Nation.

Brittany Wilson, an NMSU student of the Navajo Nation, said that the availability of tribal scholarships may encourage Native Americans to pursue higher education.

“The goal for each of these Native American scholarships is to give students a chance to pursue and succeed in school since that’s not a big thing for Native Americans when they finish high school. They usually go straight to work or they just stay home [and] these scholarships are kind of a chance for them to pursue more,” Wilson said.

According to a news release from the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance (ONNSFA) under the Department of Diné Education, this proposal is the president’s third attempt to eliminate tribal scholarships throughout his presidency.

In 2018, $13.6 million in federal funds were appropriated to the ONNSFA to fund need-based and merit-based scholarships. This figure provided 56% of overall funding to ONNSFA scholarships in 2018.

The Trump Administration is seeking to decrease the 2021 Budget for the Department of Interior by $12.7 billion in comparison to that of 2020. The DOI Budget includes funding for the Bureau of Indian Education, whereas President Trump’s 2021 budget for the BIE stands at $944.5 million.

The Operation of Indian Education Programs account proposed budget is $875.7 million, which falls under the BIE Budget. A report from the BIE reports that the bureau’s priority is to “support the BIE school system and administer grants to Tribal institutions of higher education.”

The report also mentioned that priority funding will be given to direct classroom support for tribal colleges and universities.

“Activities that do not directly support BIE school programs or facilities are a lower priority,” the report said. Tribal colleges in New Mexico include Institute of American Indian Arts, Navajo Technical University and Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute.

$34.3 million was appropriated for scholarships and adult education under the 2020 Operation of Indian Education Programs as a part of the BIE Budget.

Another NMSU student of the Navajo Nation is Katlynn Gilmore, a public health major. Gilmore said she believes there is a need for federal funding for tribal scholarships.

“Many Native American students need this scholarship to continue their education. For me, I was always told to keep going, strive for higher education. This will be another challenge to face to many,” Gilmore said.

Support from the Navajo Nation Scholarship has helped Gilmore in completing her education, she said.

“The Navajo Nation Scholarship provides many Native Americans and myself the financial support to get a college degree. If this passes, I believe the number of Native American college graduates will drop,” Gilmore said.

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