Guide Helps Ensure Access, Success, and Visibility for Native Students


The needs of Native American students are too often overlooked in all phases of higher education— including the admission process, according to a recent research project from the American Indian College Fund.

“(I)nvisibility is in essence the modern form of racism used against Native Americans…when a student is invisible, his or her academic needs are not met,” according to a recent executive brief produced by the College Fund, the largest US charity supporting Native student access to higher education.

As a result, many Native students are dissuaded from considering postsecondary education. And when American Indian students do try to access higher ed, they often are left feeling unwelcome and alone. Sometimes, they are even the target of hostility, as was the case in May 2018 when two brothers from the Mohawk Nation were removed from a Colorado State University campus tour after a mother on the tour became suspicious of their motives.

Inspired to create change in response to that traumatic event, the College Fund crafted a Declaration of Native Purpose in Higher Education.

Its first tenet — that Native students have a right to a higher education and to attend any college or university of their choice — relates directly to the work of college admission professionals.

To achieve that goal, the College Fund challenges institutions of higher education to:

  1. Examine and expand curriculum to include Native languages, Native histories, Native cultures, and contemporary issues, to name a few.
  2. Connect recruitment, admission, and matriculation as a path to college and career for Native American students from urban, reservation, and rural environments. Today, many institutions limit their recruitment to readily accessible populations or ignore Native populations entirely.
  3. Remove obstacles to enrollment, such as financial aid, discriminatory admission criteria, or elimination based on test scores, which are proven to not be the predictor of success for Native American students.

Many of the other tenets of the declaration — including specific goals related to degree attainment — also have implications for admission professionals.

Read the full document.

Admitted writer/editor Mary Stegmeir welcomes additional comments and story ideas at

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