U of U works to be the leading institution for Native students with scholarship

Nov 1, 2022, 9:00 AM
Native scholarship U of U...
FILE Photo: not only will enrollment increase but so will Graduation. (Photo: Jeffrey Allred / Deseret News)
(Photo: Jeffrey Allred / Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is now offering a four-year Native Student scholarship

The program, the first of its kind for the U of U, offers a twofold outcome by adding to an ever-growing student population. Additionally, it confirms the University’s commitment to supporting tribal communities in Utah. 

Although the program is only for in-state students, the scholarship is likely to change after its first trial year.

“The financial barriers Utah students face can be alleviated through continued investment in scholarships and tuition support,” said Samantha Eldridge, the director of the American Indian Resource Center in a press release.

“While tuition or financial assistance is not the sole solution, the university has an opportunity to ensure Native students realize their full academic potential and post-graduation success.” 

More specifically, students are only eligible if they are enrolled full-time, complete Federal Student Aid applications annually, achieve academic competence, and are a member of a Utah tribe that is federally recognized for in-state tuition.

Undergrads can apply now for the 2023 spring semester,  and new students or transfers can apply in the spring for fall of 2023.

Accessible education

According to U of U data, an average of 120 eligible students have enrolled each year over the past five years. Those students self-identify as American Indian or Alaska Native. 

The University has an existing relationship with the Ute Indian Tribe that allows the school to use the name “Utes.” The school also offers financial and educational support to the Ute Tribe.

And the new scholarship may open doors for more tribal partnerships.

“We have been increasing our outreach to other tribal communities, meeting with Title VI coordinators,” said Eldridge. “It is definitely one of our goals to strengthen our relationship with other tribal nations in Utah.” 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, Native students have the highest drop-out rate of any ethnic group in the country. Education leaders at the U of U hope enrollment and graduation rates will both rise with the new scholarship. 

Additionally, students who enroll in the scholarship will also experience a new four-year “wrap-around” program according to Eldridge.

The “Native Excellence” program will work in tandem with the scholarship and will reportedly provide holistic student support. It is aimed at helping the personal, social and academic development of students.

Investing in opportunity 

The U of U isn’t the first to offer Native enrollment assistance. But other institutions offer their tuition benefits based on being Land-Grant Universities. Because the U of U isn’t a land-grant university, they are raising the funds themselves. 

“It’s an overall investment … and our entire university campus will benefit from the cultural heritage that Native students bring to the institution,” said Eldridge. “We hope to be the leading institution for Native students in Utah.”

The U of U will announce scholarship recipients by the summer of 2023. 

“With this scholarship and lessening the financial burden, we hope for [Native] students it becomes ‘when I can go to college?’ not ‘if I can go to college.’,” said Eldridge. 

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U of U works to be the leading institution for Native students with scholarship