American Indian College Fund Announces Five-Year Grant Totaling More Than $38 Million
“Culture at the Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention” - A Customizable Program
December 16, 2022
Denver, Colo.—December 15, 2022—Lilly Endowment Inc. has approved a $38,775,000 grant to the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) to support efforts that strengthen tribal colleges and universities and improve the educational attainment of American Indian and Alaska Native students.
The grant is funding “Culture at the Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention,” a program to be implemented over five years to increase American Indian and Alaska Native student enrollment, retention, and graduation rates at 25 tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) serving Native communities.
The program will give Native students the critical and culturally based skills and experiences they need to graduate and serve their communities in the fields of health care, environmental science, business, law, education, and more. Lilly Endowment’s grant is the largest gift the College Fund has received in its 33-year history.
The College Fund’s mission is to provide American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students with scholarships and TCUs, located on or near Indian reservations, with the financial and program support they need. Although the importance of student scholarships has been well established, the College Fund has long understood that scholarships are not enough to create equitable access to higher education. The statistics tell the story: Today 15.4 percent of AIAN people aged 25 and older in the United States have achieved a bachelor’s degree or higher—less than half the national average—according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
“Culture at the Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention” will enable the College Fund to create a comprehensive and integrated system of student and institutional support that is critical to AIAN students considering, preparing for, entering, and graduating from college.
The program’s foundation is deeply rooted in Tribal cultures and values to strategically address the ways AIAN students attending TCUs experience admissions, enrollment, student support services, coaching, academic planning, and career development. By taking this culturally based approach to enrollment and retention, participating TCUs can scale both individual and systemic solutions for student success, while mapping their own processes, goals, and implementation plans according to the Tribal cultures and values in the communities they serve. The project will strengthen the TCU system by implementing an enrollment management system that allows TCUs to share data and best practices and collaborate through a community of practice.
Founded in 1989 with partial start-up funding from Lilly Endowment, the College Fund began as an organization dedicated to raising college scholarship funds for AIAN students and to promote national awareness of TCUs. Since then, Lilly Endowment has made several grants to the College Fund to support capital needs of TCUs and a variety of leadership and capacity-building initiatives.
“American Indian College Fund is an important supporter of, and advocate for, tens of thousands of AIAN students around the country, many of whom attend TCUs,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment’s vice president for education. “We hope that this grant to the College Fund will enable TCUs to help even more AIAN students thrive, build meaningful careers, and become leaders in their communities.”
Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “Tribal colleges and universities provide education that is woven with Tribal knowledge and the cultures of the students and communities they serve. Lilly Endowment supports transformative community-based work and, as a long-time ally of tribal higher education, recognizes the alignment of their mission with ours. We are deeply grateful.”
Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis‐based, private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by J. K. Lilly and his sons, Eli and J.K. Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial bedrock of the Endowment, the Endowment is a separate entity from the company, with a distinct governing board, staff and location. In keeping with its founders’ wishes, the Endowment supports the causes of community development, education and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and home state, Indiana.
About the American Indian College Fund—The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native higher education for 33 years. The College Fund believes “Education is the answer" and provided $14.45 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian and Alaska Native students in 2021-22. Since its founding in 1989 the College Fund has provided more than $284 million in scholarships, programs, community, and tribal college and university support. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located on or near Indian reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top ratings from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, please visit http://www.collegefund.org.