Trump Administration Budget Eliminates Funding for Tribal College Scholarships

Mar 28, 2019

A federal grant program that provides college scholarships to Native American students could lose funding. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, for the second year in a row the Trump administration has proposed defunding it.

Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (center) at a recent cabinet meeting at the White House with Pres. Trump.
Credit Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images

The program survived last year’s proposed cuts, but is again on the table this year. The administration’s fiscal year 2020 budget would slash nearly $40 million from tribal scholarship and education programs administered by the Bureau of Indian Education. Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt says the budget proposal supports tribal self-determination and improves education services in Indian Country.

But Navajo officials say the federal Higher Education Grant is crucial for thousands of students to attend and graduate from college.

"It would be a huge impact. That’s the majority of our funding. We have over 1,300 students that graduate every year with an undergraduate degree and for sure that number would decrease," says Rose Graham, the director of the tribe’s Office of Scholarship and Financial Assistance.

Graham says in 2017 nearly $10 million in federal funding went to partial scholarships for nearly 4,000 Navajo students. The Trump administration’s proposal would eliminate all of it.

Just over 4 percent of Navajo tribal members have a bachelor’s degree compared with about a third of the total U.S. population.