Salt, the best-in-class education-consumer literacy program provided by the nonprofit American Student Assistance, is pleased to announce a partnership with the American Indian College Fund to support tribal colleges and universities nationwide in offering money management advice, personalized student loan help, and straightforward budgeting tools free-of-charge to students and alumni.
“American Indians face steep barriers to higher education and the lifelong dreams that education enables,” says John Zurick, president and CEO of American Student Assistance. “We are thrilled to work with like-minded organizations like the American Indian College Fund to expand Salt’s essential services to the underserved students and families who need them most.”
Under the arrangement announced today, the College Fund is joining with ASA to underwrite the sponsorship of Salt at accredited, College Fund-supported tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) nationwide. Any of the 35 College Fund-affiliated TCUs can now choose to offer their students and alumni Salt’s full suite of digital services, including the program’s online personal finance curriculum; a repayment navigator to track loans and compare repayment plans; search engines for scholarships and careers/internships; an online community to ask questions of peers and experts; and blogs, articles, videos, calculators, tools, and apps that teach users how to take control of their finances. Salt users can also access one-on-one counseling with a loan specialist via email and chat. All Salt services are free-of-charge to students and alumni.
Tribal colleges that have already signed on with Salt include College of Menominee Nation in Wisconsin, Fort Peck Community College in Montana, Ilisagvik College in Alaska, Nebraska Indian Community College, Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota, and Sitting Bull College in North Dakota.
The high cost of college today puts higher education out of reach for many American Indians. According to an American Community Survey from 2014, more than 28% of American Indians live below the poverty line, compared to the national poverty rate of 15.5% for the overall population. American Indians today account for only 1% of all college students, and have the lowest educational attainment rates of all ethnic and racial groups. Only 13.6% of American Indians earn a college degree, often due to the unique challenges of living in remote, rural areas. The average cost of attendance at a TCU is approximately $16,355 per year—far less than the average “sticker price” of over $42,000 at a four-year, nonprofit institution—but still a heavy burden for many students and families.
“We know education is the answer to lifting Native people out of poverty and up the economic ladder,” says Cheryl Crazy Bull (Sicangu Lakota), American Indian College Fund president and CEO. “Yet today, far too many in our community are shut out of educational opportunity, or fail to recognize the full potential of their education after the fact, simply because they couldn’t navigate the student aid process or didn’t know how to responsibly finance the cost of college. Salt will help us transform Indian higher education by offering students access to the financial knowledge and skills that ensure a future of prosperity for themselves, their families, their communities, and the country as a whole.”