United Tribes Technical College (UTTC) has renewed its Native American Tuition Waiver Program for the 2017-2018 academic year. The program was launched last year on a trial basis for students who are enrolled members of federally recognized tribes.
“When we began offering this our goal was to help make higher education attainable for the population we serve, which has some of the lowest annual income averages in the entire nation,” says UTTC President Leander R. McDonald. “Now we have data to show that it’s successful for the students and the college.”
The move was aimed at helping students avoid relying exclusively on student loans. UTTC ended its participation in the federal student loan program in 2016. Experience shows that student loans are a burden on families that are without savings accounts or access to credit. “Waiving tuition is realistic financial assistance that helps make the start of college accessible for Native students,” McDonald says.
During the 2016 fall semester, the waiver sparked UTTC enrollment to jump by over 22%. A corresponding positive impact occurred on student academic performance. “We can see the positive results,” says DeLana Wendland, UTTC’s vice president of student services, about increases in GPA, class completion, and student retention. “Students who applied for and received the waiver turned out to be more successful in these areas compared to their counterparts.”
During the 2016-17 academic year, 210 Native students received the waiver and interest continues to run high. The college’s enrollment staff processed 58% more accepted applications. For next school year, FAFSA applications (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) are up 189% over this time one year ago.
The waivers’ impact on college finances has been offset by greater income brought about by having more students on campus. “It’s pretty clear that if the same trends continue, this is the kind of policy we should institutionalize for the long term,” says Wendland.
The college’s board of directors on April 7th endorsed the program’s continuation. Tuition waivers will be extended for fall semester 2017, spring semester 2018, and summer semester 2018. Currently, the waiver is in effect for summer 2017.