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Leveling the Playing Field for Tribal Colleges
by Pam Chwedyk Minority Nurse Writer
Nursing programs at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs)--such as the Nursing Departments of Oglala Lakota College in Pine Ridge, S.D., Sisseton Wahpeton Community College in Sisseton, S.D., and Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Mont.--play a tremendously key role in helping American Indian students in underserved areas increase their access to nursing careers. Yet many of the nation’s 32 TCUs are underbudgeted, receive no state funding and are struggling to meet their operating costs.
Recognizing, as U.S. Secretary of Education Rod Paige puts it, that “the nation’s TCUs have an historic and unique role in American higher education and serve many Americans who might otherwise be left behind,” the federal government has expanded and strengthened its commitment to supporting these important institutions. As part of the ongoing White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU), President Bush issued an executive order on July 3 creating a President’s Board of Advisors on TCUs within the Department of Education.
Chaired by Ron McNeil, president of Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, N.D., and a member of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, the advisory board is charged with ensuring that TCUs have full access to federal and private programs and funds that benefit other higher education institutions. Specifically, the group will make recommendations about ways the federal government and the private sector can help tribal colleges expand their resources, programs, facilities and use of technologies. The board’s 14 members, most of whom are American Indians, include several other TCU presidents as well as Indian leaders from the business, cultural and political arenas.
In addition, President Bush’s 2003 budget calls for more than $18 million for programs to strengthen Tribal Colleges and Universities--a 3.6% increase over current funding levels.