University implements plan to pay tuition for Native American students

A University of Oregon program will cover tuition and fees for indigenous students.

It is estimated to benefit 150-175 students.

The University of Oregon (UO) initiated a program to pay for indigenous students’ fees and tuition.

The program, called “Home Flight Scholars Program,” will be immediately available to an estimated 150-175 American Indian/Alaska Native (AIAN) students attending UO, according to an Oct. 10 press release

Recipients must be registered in one of 574 federally recognized tribes to qualify for financial aid. The program clears outstanding tuition after state and federal options have been exhausted.

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The press release stated that the “three major factors” impacting AIAN students are “financial hardships, academic difficulties and the lack of cultural connectedness.” 

“The Home Flight Scholars Program addresses these issues, incorporating wrap-around services that support student retention and graduation through complementary financial assistance, improved counseling and academic services, and professional development,” it reads.

Assistant Vice President and Advisor to the President Jason Younker told Campus Reform that UO hopes the program “can break down the impassable cost barrier that often stands in front of the poorest communities in the US.”

He claimed the program, created in partnership with the Native American Advisory Council (NAAC), will help to “[align] academic priorities between the UO and federally recognized tribes.”

Younker also stated that he is confident that the program can be an example for different communities that help indigenous people.

“Other versions of HF– hopefully in the future and other communities –would have to be modified to meet the unique needs of those communities,” he said.

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In July, UO launched a grant called the “Oregon Tribal Student Grant,” which pays for “tuition, housing, books, and costs not covered by other grants.”

Oregon’s lawmakers administered $19 million dollars to pay college expenses for indigenous students for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) Executive Director Ben Cannon praised the program in a prepared statement to Campus Reform.

“As we roll out the first year of the state Oregon Tribal Student Grant program and other state equity strategies, it is exciting to see Oregon public universities prioritizing equity and opportunity in higher education in news ways, and we strongly encourage Oregon public universities to adopt bold strategies at the institutional level to expand college access and success for historically underserved population,” he said.

Campus Reform contacted UO President, media relations, NAAC, National Congress of American Indians, and Oregon Tribal Grant office for comment, this article will be updated accordingly.