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Scholarships & Financial Aid for Native American Students

Grants, Student Loans, & Fellowships

Paying for college can be intimidating, especially when students know they have to seek financial aid. Native American students have many options for financial aid. It just takes time, patience, and some research.

Most colleges and universities offer a number of financial aid possibilities, whether it be federal aid, state aid, scholarships, work-study programs, or loans. In addition, there are outside scholarships specifically dedicated to Native American students. Some are government scholarships, while others may be scholarships offered by specific organizations.

This article provides information on where to find financial aid and scholarships for Native American students. In addition, several examples of various scholarships geared toward Native Americans are included.

Where to Find College Money

There are several financial aid options for Native American students. Students can seek federal, state, institutional, and other financial assistance.

Federal and State Financial Aid

The most important step to being considered for financial aid is completing and submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This application is used to determine the amount of aid a student may receive. To fill out and submit the FAFSA, go to their website at www.fafsa.ed.gov/. The application can be completed online, which is most preferred. The deadline for submitting the FAFSA is usually June 30.

Once the FAFSA is submitted and reviewed for federal aid, it is automatically sent off for state financial aid approval, where it is reviewed. If funds are available, students may receive financial assistance. Therefore, it is important to complete and submit a FAFSA as soon as possible. Note that the deadline for state financial aid may differ from federal financial aid. Be sure to find out the all deadlines to ensure quicker approval.

Native American students should be members of a federally recognized Native American tribe, otherwise funding may be denied. Membership is especially vital for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) scholarships. Proof of membership may be required—such as a Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB).

Canadian-born Native American students, who are at least 50% Indian blood, have special rights under the power of the Jay Treaty of 1794. This treaty allows these particular Native Americans the legal right of permanent residency in the United States, and eligibility for Title IV student financial aid. Documentation is required, such as a birth record, band card, or tribal affidavit, to ensure federal student aid eligibility.

Native American students are also required to apply for BIA/OIEP Indian Education grants through their tribe, agency, or area Office of Indian Education. Students may be awarded a “Higher Ed” grant ranging anywhere from $500 to $4,000 per year.

Other examples of federal and state include:
The Indian Health Service (HIS) offers several financial aid programs for American Indian and Alaska Native students (federally or state-recognized tribe). They are:

  • Health Professions Preparatory Scholarship Program—awarded to students pursuing a degree in nursing, pharmacy, and other health professions.
  • Health Professions Pre-Graduate Scholarship Program—awarded to students earning a bachelor’s degree in a pre-professional field such as pre-dentistry, or pre-medicine.
  • Health Professions Scholarship Program—awarded to American Indian and Alaska Native students who are members of a federally recognized tribe only, enrolled in a health profession or allied health program.

States with a high concentration of Native Americans typically offer extra funding for students seeking higher education. For example, the state of North Dakota provides the Indian Scholarship Program, a merit- and need-based scholarship awarded to Native American students in amounts up to $2,000 per year.

Institutional Scholarships

Scholarships are free money students do not have to repay. However, students must apply for them. Many colleges and universities offer minority scholarships which, oftentimes, include Native American students, at both the undergraduate as well as the graduate student level. Students should also inquire about departmental scholarships based on their area of study.

Some colleges and universities also offer specific scholarships dedicated to Native American students. Arizona State University (ASU) is one such institution. This university offers the Rose Garreau American Indian Scholarship. This scholarship is awarded to Native American students attending ASU in various amounts.

Scholarships Offered by Organizations

In addition to institutional scholarships, Native America students may qualify for any of the many scholarships offered by outside organizations. Outside scholarships are a great supplement to a student’s financial aid package. Like institutional scholarships, oftentimes, scholarships dedicated to Native American students may be listed under “minority” scholarships.

Examples of outside scholarships for Native American students include:

Morris K. Udall Scholarship Program —this scholarship awards 80 students up to $5,000 each; and, 50 honorable mentions at $350 apiece. Students must be a sophomore or junior level college student pursuing a degree related to tribal public policy, the environment, or Native American healthcare.

Katrin Lamon Fund—sponsored by the American Indian Graduate Center, this scholarship is awarded to Native American students majoring in journalism, communications, literature, or a related field. Award amounts vary.

Jeannette Elmer Scholarship-Graduate Fellowship—sponsored by the American Indian Graduate Center, this fellowship is awarded to students enrolled in a professional degree program or graduate studies, and are members of a tribe in Wisconsin, Arizona, or New Mexico. Award amounts vary.

American Anthropological Association offers a Minority Dissertation Fellowship Program. One minority doctoral student studying anthropology is awarded $10,000 for a dissertation writing fellowship each year.

The American Indian College Fund sponsors several financial aid programs including, The Tribal College General Scholarship Program; Tribal College Special Scholarship Program; and, The Austin Family Scholarship Endowment.

Other Options

Some colleges and universities offer incentives to full-blooded Native Americans. For example, in Montana, any Native American student who attends a Montana state institution qualifies for a free waiver which includes tuition, and the $30 administration fee. To qualify, students must be residents of Montana, one-fourth Indian blood, and have a financial need.

In addition, Native American students should check with their tribal office. Many offer scholarships, but need to be contacted directly for more information and requirements.

For Native American students with tribal affiliations outside the federally recognized tribes, there is the Allogan Slagle Scholarship. This scholarship is sponsored by the Association on American Indian Affairs, offering awards for both graduate and undergraduate students. Amount award varies.


Most universities and colleges offer federal loans as another way for paying for college expenses, or for supplementing a student’s financial aid package. Loans are not free money. They have to be repaid. However, most repayment plans does not begin until after graduating or leaving college.

The two most common loans offered are the Perkins Loan, and the Federal Stafford Loans, and the Federal Direct Loans. To be considered for these loans, a FAFSA must be completed and submitted.

Points to Remember about Native American Financial Aid

  • Fill out and submit the FAFSA as soon as possible. This application plays a vital role in many of the financial aid options available to students.
  • Check all options offered through federal and state financial aid. There are a variety of opportunities that may be overlooked.
  • Be sure to search ‘minority’ scholarships when searching online for outside scholarships. Native American students are sometimes included in those scholarship programs.
  • Ask the school of choice what, if any, incentives they provide Native American students.
  • Exhaust all other financial aid options before looking into loans. There are many scholarships and grants for Native America students—a little time and research can earn big rewards.

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