BEMIDJI—Higher education leaders from across northern Minnesota gathered Friday to sign a series of agreements that will make for a smoother transition for tribal college students to make their way to Bemidji State University.
The agreements stipulate that students with two-year degrees from Leech Lake, Red Lake, White Earth, and Fond du Lac tribal colleges are automatically enrolled at BSU and can begin their studies without an admission fee. Students at those colleges can consult with the university's academic and career advisers before they make the switch, too.
"We believe that our partnership holds great promise for furthering the economic development in our communities and throughout the state by developing the talent that employers need and keeping our best and brightest students here to live and work in Minnesota," said BSU President Faith Hensrud, who characterized the signing ceremony at the school's American Indian Resource Center as an historic and unprecedented occasion.
"To our knowledge, no other university in the United States has simultaneously established dual-admission pathways with four tribal colleges."
Students can take advantage of the Azhoogan—"the bridge"—program if they've completed 24 transferable credits at one of the tribal colleges, have at least a 2.5 GPA, and finish some advising sessions with staff from both colleges. In return, they'll get automatically accepted to BSU, complete with a university ID card and participation in "limited student life activities."
Vince Merrill of East Lake, Minn., and the Minisinaakwaang American Indian community, gave a long invocation in Ojibwe before Hensrud and the four tribal college presidents signed the agreements.
BSU administrators hope to lure more American Indian students to the university. Staff there said the school has granted more than 1,000 diplomas to American Indian students and boasts the first American Indian studies program in Minnesota and the first Ojibwe language program in the world.
Each of the tribal colleges has 10-30 two-year graduates this year, according to staffers there. BSU staff said they're not sure how many new students the agreements might bring to the university.