US House Committee Rejects Elimination of Tribal Scholarship Program

Jun 12, 2019

A U.S. House committee has rejected the Trump administration’s attempt to defund a Native American scholarship program. KNAU’s Ryan Heinsius reports, it was the second time the White House has tried to eliminate the Higher Education Grant. 

Acting US Interior Secretary David Bernhardt (left) and President Trump at a January cabinet meeting.
Credit AP/Evan Vucci

The program is administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and helps thousands of tribal students nationwide attend and graduate from college. But the Trump administration announced in March it was cutting all of the grant’s nearly $40 million in funding for the 2020 fiscal year.

The House Subcommittee on Interior Appropriations, however, has now recommended the program’s annual funding instead increase to nearly $52 million.

Rose Graham is the director of the Navajo Nation’s Office of Scholarship and Financial Assistance. She predicts tribal graduation rates could drop without the federal grant.

"Here on Navajo as well as throughout the nation, higher education is a powerful force for change … It’s important for our young people to have a college degree, it makes a huge difference," says Graham.

Last year, the tribe provided partial scholarships to more than 4,100 students using the Higher Education Grant. Graham says her office can only fund about half the scholarship applications it receives under current levels, but with the proposed increase she hopes to boost the number.

The U.S. Senate will now consider the Higher Education budget request.