Red Lake Nation College On the Way to Accreditation
Receives AIHEC Associate Membership Status
The Red Lake Nation College announced that it received AIHEC Associate Membership status this past October at the AIHEC Annual Meetings in Albuquerque, New Mexico. AIHEC is the American Indian Higher Education Consortium a group of 37 Tribal Colleges scattered across the United States and Canada.
“The Red Lake College was awarded the associate membership with AIHEC on a vote of 30-1,” said Red Lake Nation Tribal College President Dan King. “This membership with other tribal colleges across the country means many more funding opportunities.”
“We are very excited about our new AIHEC affiliation and Associate Membership status. This is an important step for us and further proof that we are on a strong and confident path toward independent institutional accreditation,” said King.
AIHEC Associate Membership status is important since the AIHEC group represents the central lobbying group of Tribal Colleges and provides access to large national foundations and sources of funding for the Tribal Colleges. AIHEC also provides access to comprehensive data warehouse for all Tribal Colleges and a good networking system for its Members.
Currently, the Red Lake Nation College has an academic agreement with the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College so that all courses taken at the Red Lake Nation College transfer to other colleges. Also, under the current agreement with the Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College, all students attending the Red Lake Nation College are eligible to receive financial aid. The long-term strategic goal of the Red Lake Nation College is academic and financial independence.
The Red Lake Nation College is also in the final stages of completing Master Plans for a new, $10 million dollar campus located on the shores of beautiful Red Lake on the Red Lake Indian Reservation.
“I think we have much strength and several good things going for us such as excellent academic courses and programs, a large critical mass of potential students on the Red Lake reservation, an excellent management team and outstanding Tribal Council support for higher education. Our college brings excellent higher education and vocational training to many people who would not otherwise have access,” said King.
Red Lake Nation College student enrollment has steadily increased to its highest level ever in the Fall of 2011 with 102 students. The Tribal Council has established a Tribal goal for Red Lake of at least 200 Tribal Members in college by the Fall of 2014 and King feels that the Tribal College is on track to meet that goal with plans for at least 140 students at the Red Lake Nation College in the Fall of 2012.
“Our Tribal Chairman and Council feel that higher education of our Tribal Members is a key ingredient in the growth and development of our Nation and I think they are exactly right. We need more of our Tribal Members to be leading our Nation; we need more Tribal Member teachers, doctors, nurses, business managers, lawyers, accountants, natural resource managers, carpenters and just about any field,” said King.
With strong support from the Red Lake Tribal Council and other new revenue sources, the Red Lake Nation is planning to quadruple its operating budget from August 2010 to January 2012. The Red Lake Tribal government is also strongly supporting the new Tribal College campus plans.
King added, “Without the outstanding financial and moral support from the Tribal Council, none of our fast Red Lake Nation College growth in the last 15 months would be possible. We are truly appreciative of their support since it is directly improving the lives of our Members, their families and our entire Community.”
Background and Goals
The Red Lake Nation College is a two-year college operated by the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota. Currently the college is operated as a satellite of Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College but it will soon become an independently accredited institution working closely with Bemidji State University and Leech Lake Tribal College.
Mission: “To provide excellent higher education that is grounded in the Ojibwe Language and Culture of the Red Lake Nation.” Computer labs, small classes and tutoring in math, English and communication add to a friendly family atmosphere. Students comment that starting school at home on the Rez makes for an easier transition to move on to four-year colleges like BSU.
As it transitions to its new status the college is proposing to expand and enhance its campus and educational offerings. As part of that effort it was deemed necessary to gain a better understanding of the probable target student population.
The College retained DSGW, the architectural firm assisting Red Lake with its expansion program, to document the target population. The basic understandings underlying this effort are:
• The College primarily serves the post-secondary education needs of members of the Red Lake Nation, which will likely continue.
• The primary focus of education at the college is on enhancing basic educational skills within the context of Ojibwe culture and history. The college proposes to expand its program offerings.
High School Graduates
• Over the next ten years an average of 90 Red Lake students per year will graduate from Red Lake High School and nearby schools.
• Another 60 students will annually graduate through Red Lake’s credit recovery program or by receiving their GED.
• Of this annual total, 75% should be considered potential students for post-secondary education and training. These students comprise the primary target population for the Red Lake Nation College.
• Non-traditional adult learners on the Reservation are the secondary target population for the College. This age group is considered to be persons aged 25 to 44.
• There are 1,600 Red Lake members in this age group on the Reservation, with another 400 off reservation.
• Attracting this population to the college will require targeted programming specifically designed for their needs.
• Over time as the college serves an ever greater number of Red Lake graduating high school seniors, the educational needs of the adult population will change with more of them seeking four-year degrees and supplemental education and training to augment their two-year degrees.
Current College Student Profile1
When the college first opened, most of its students were older women who were enrolled Red Lake Reservation members.
Of the students enrolled, roughly 80% are female. This may be explained by the single available degree being in Liberal Arts. Most of the males enrolled in the college are taking the construction program.
Nearly every student is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Reservation. The handful that are not are either members of other Minnesota tribes or live on Red Lake Reservation but whose blood quantum does not qualify for enrollee status.
Most of the students are recent high school graduates including some who have received their GED.