January 15-16, 2004


Throughout the State, there is a growing demand that higher education, including tribal colleges, take a more active role in economic and workplace development in order to increase employment opportunities. Poverty and unemployment on Montana's Indian reservations are among the highest in the State. This is especially true on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana, where unemployment ranges between 70-80%.

Several factors including the affordability of higher education, access to colleges and universities, and the extension of educational opportunities to under-served constituent groups in Montana, have seriously restricted the ability of low-income residents in their quest to acquire the necessary skills and abilities for employment. Tribal colleges, such as Chief Dull Knife College, were created with these aforementioned factors in mind, and have continued to provide and expand services to rural areas throughout the State. While the mission of each of these institutions is directed at providing quality post-secondary educational opportunities to the reservations they serve, they have additionally provided higher education access to State residents from surrounding communities, at an affordable price.

Tribal colleges, such as Chief Dull Knife College (CDKC), currently fund all fixed costs inherent in operating and expanding a higher education institution. However, PL92-471 (the Tribally Controlled Community College Act) that provides funding for tribal colleges, does not allow FTE reimbursement for students not enrolled in a federally recognized tribe. In prior years, the State Legislature has approved funding for what are termed "non-beneficiary" students attending tribal colleges and appropriated funding in the amount of approximately $1900 per FTE for students in this category. This amount has greatly assisted the tribal colleges in meeting the increased fixed costs associated with operating an institution of higher education by providing funding for State residents for whom the college cannot be reimbursed under the Tribally Controlled Community College Act.

Chief Dull Knife College encourages the Board of Regents to advocate continued legislation and funding for non-beneficiary students attending tribal colleges, citing the following justifications.

1.       The State University System mandated entry-level scores in academic areas require students to achieve proficiency prior to being admitted. Tribal colleges provide a wide range of developmental, as well as general education coursework, directed at enhancing student success and ultimate transition to the four-year colleges and universities. The return to Montana citizens is reduced costs associated with providing developmental coursework at the four-year institutions, thereby allowing additional funding for supporting upper level and graduate programs.

2.       Recent studies by the University System indicate that one of the major contributors to poor student retention is the inability to continue to pay current tuition and fees and/or to absorb more debt in the form of student loans. Tribal colleges, because of their rural locations and lower costs of attendance, keep higher education affordable for the average Montana family. The return to the Montana citizens is increased access to higher education institutions and tuition rates that are far more affordable.

3.       The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) has greatly increased the necessity for individuals working in school districts throughout the state to obtain required competencies and/or degrees. Tribal colleges, such as CDKC, have worked closely with area schools to provide the necessary coursework that will enable the districts to meet this federal mandate, while at the same time increasing the number of Native American teachers and instructional aides.

4.       The State Legislature reimburses State University System institutions and community colleges on an annual basis for FTE resident enrollment. The reimbursement amount is calculated annually based upon legislative appropriations, and the amount disbursed to four-year institutions per resident FTE is significantly more than that provided the state community colleges. The reimbursement to tribal colleges, which in the past has been set at approximately $1900 per "non-beneficiary" FTE would result in significant savings to the State when compared to either the two-year or four-year institutions reimbursement amount.

5.       It should be noted that tribal colleges, such as CDKC, do not actively recruit "non-beneficiary" students, however, we do not exclude those students from enrollment in our programs or courses either. Furthermore, CDKC does not differentiate between Native American students and "non-beneficiary" students with regard to tuition/fees schedules or other associated costs of attendance. The fixed costs of providing coursework at CDKC remains the same, regardless of whether the student is Native American or "non-beneficiary."

6.       Chief Dull Knife College currently works with other institutions throughout the state to promote dual enrollment agreements that enhance retention and a smooth transition for all students, Native American and "non-beneficiary" alike. We feel that we provide a significant service to the State, and since we don't seek funding from the State for students who are enrolled members of a federally recognized tribe, we feel that our request for "non-beneficiary" reimbursement is minimal.

Thank you for your consideration of this proposal and we look forward to working with all involved in higher education throughout the State in promoting increased access and affordable educational opportunities to all residents.