Finding scholarships for college can be difficult for any student, but it can be particularly hard for Native American students. Federal census reports show that they are the smallest minority in the United States (only about 0.8% of the population) and public and private financial aid institutions have largely ignored this constituency. This has made attending college even more difficult for a group that already faces more challenges than most U.S. students. Reservations are still plagued by deep poverty and educational opportunities are limited. Recognizing these realities, some institutions have implemented scholarships for Native Americans. Most, if not all, require applicants prove that they are members of a tribe. Here are some of the best scholarships opportunities for Native American students.
The Gates Foundation distributes many scholarships every year. Recognizing that Native American students have a more challenging road, they endowed a scholarship fund through the American Indian Graduate Center. They award 150 Native American students, both undergraduate and graduate, with scholarships every year. They range between $500 and an impressive $40,000.
This private, non-profit organization awards around 6,000 scholarships per year to Native American students attending college. In addition to funding student education, they also provide support to tribal colleges, which get no state or federal support. For more information, contact them directly or visit your financial aid office at your school.
There are three scholarship opportunities through Catching the Dream, a Native American scholarship fund. Each of the three encourages Native American students to pursue their studies in fields that are important for the development and growth of their tribes. MESBEC awards money to students majoring in math, science, engineering, business, education, and computer science. The Native American Leadership Education Program distributes money to Native American students pursuing a degree in education. They want to encourage more Native American teachers since only seven percent of reservation teachers are Native American. And the Tribal Business Management Program awards scholarships to students who are studying business, finance, economics, or other related fields and plan on applying their skills to the economic development of their reservation. To be eligible students must be at least one-quarter Native American and a member of a tribe. They also need to write an essay that details their how they want to use their education to better Native American life.
These are only some of the best. They are, however, competitive and limited. There are many more, some of which are intended only for members of certain tribes, women, or certain majors. Those looking for scholarships should seek those out as well. And, like any other college students, Native American students should not limit their scholarship search to awards based on their ethnicity. They have the opportunity to apply to many other national and state awards, as well as other minority scholarships. They should apply to as many as they can to ensure the maximum amount of financial aid as possible.