SAINT PAUL, Minn. – A proposal authored by Rep. Heather Keeler (DFL – Moorhead) to invest an additional $3.15 million annually in Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges has been included in the conference committee report of the 2023 Higher Education Budget Bill. The Minnesota House and Senate have passed the report, which reflects a compromise between the two chambers. It now awaits Governor Walz’s anticipated signature. “Tribal Colleges play a vital role in providing access to higher education and supporting our Indigenous communities. In this budget, we’re finally taking new steps to empower Indigenous students, and these new investments will make a massive impact for students who have long been left behind by conventional education systems that haven’t always recognized their potential,” Rep. Keeler said. “After years upon years without investment from the state of Minnesota in our Tribal Colleges, I’m deeply grateful my legislative colleagues are taking action to expand opportunities for Native students to succeed and thrive.”
Leech Lake Tribal College, White Earth Tribal College, and Red Lake Nation Tribal College will all receive grants under a new program established in the legislation to support their educational missions and address maintenance costs. Additionally, the bill invests $8.5 million toward a new American Indian Scholarship program to provide tuition- and fee-free undergraduate education to Indigenous students at public postsecondary institutions.
“We are very excited and appreciate that 23-24 will be the first budget year of state operational funding for Leech Lake, Red Lake, and White Earth Tribal Colleges in Minnesota. This is life-changing funding for Minnesota’s Tribal Colleges, which are the most underserved group for higher education – Native Americans,” said Chief Dan King, President of Red Lake Nation College. “This is the start of a great partnership between the State and Minnesota’s three largest Tribes, which represent 70% of all Natives in Minnesota. We are grateful for the chief authors of this bill, our champions, Rep. Heather Keeler, and Senator Omar Fateh, and the strong bipartisan support we received in the Minnesota House and Senate.”
“We are honored and grateful for the opportunities this state operational funding will create for students of White Earth Tribal and Community College, Leech Lake Tribal College, and Red Lake Nation College in Minnesota. Investing in underserved populations in higher education is a commitment to community care, and we are excited to embark on this powerful mission in partnership with the State of Minnesota,” said Anna Sheppard, president of White Earth Tribal & Community College. “This funding will positively impact generations of students, families, and the legacy of our communities. We are grateful for the chief authors, Representative Heather Keeler and Senator Omar Fateh, who sponsored the bills on the House and Senate sides. We appreciate your support and commitment to advancing TCU’s in Minnesota.”
“We are thankful to the state of Minnesota for their support. This funding will help us realize our vision to be recognized as a center of academic excellence that advances the Anishinaabe worldview and empowers lifelong learners who are fully engaged citizens, stewards, and leaders,” said Dr. Helen Zaikina-Montgomery, president of Leech Lake Tribal College. “Although this funding won’t solve every challenge our tribal colleges face, it will provide us with a vital lifeline of resources and will demonstrate Minnesota’s commitment to supporting postsecondary education on reservations across the state.”
Overall, the budget funds the Office of Higher Education, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities, the University of Minnesota campuses, the Mayo Clinic Medical School, and Tribal Colleges. Notably, the budget provides free college to students with household income under $80,000. It includes a fully-funded tuition freeze at Minnesota State campuses for two years, saving students a combined $75 million. The budget also provides $50 million in one-time funding to address structural deficits across the Minnesota State system, saving jobs and programs. For the University of Minnesota, the budget also invests an additional $100 million over the biennium, and fully funds a systemwide safety and security request.
More information on the bill can be found here.