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Financial Aid for Native American Students


This page provides information about financial aid for Native American students, compiled with the assistance of Donovan Gomez, Executive Director of the San Juan Pueblo Department of Education.


For a student to be eligible for many Native American scholarships, such as BIA scholarships, the student should be an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. Otherwise funding will most likely be denied. A Certificate of Indian Blood (CIB) card or document is generally accepted proof of membership in a federally recognized tribe.

Native American students with at least 50% Indian blood who were born in Canada are eligible for Title IV federal student aid under the jurisdiction of the Jay Treaty of 1794, subsequent treaties, and US Immigration Law. They are not required to obtain documentation from the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS). Because of the limited number of Title IV aid applicants who are eligible under the Jay Treaty, the citizenship question on the FAFSA (question #15-16) does not have a separate response for such students. Such students should report on the FAFSA that they are "eligible non-citizens" and leave the question about the Alien Registration Number blank. They will then be required to provide the financial aid administrator at the school they attend with proof that they have 50% Native American blood and were born in Canada. This can be demonstrated by any of several documents:

  • A "band card" issued by the Band Council of a Canadian Reserve, or by the Department of Indian Affairs in Ottawa.
  • Birth or baptism records.
  • An affidavit from a tribal official or other person knowledgeable about the applicant's or recipient's family history.
  • Identification from a recognized Native America provincial or territorial organization.

Sources of Aid

In addition to the resources listed below, the FastWEB scholarship search lists 70 active award sources for Native American students only, 11 award sources for Native American or Native Alaskan students, and hundreds of awards for minority students.

US Bureau of Indian Affairs
Students who are more than 1/4 Indian blood should be eligible for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) scholarships. BIA/OIEP funds may only be awarded to a person who is a member of a federally recognized Native American tribe.

Native American students must apply for a BIA/OIEP Indian Education Grant through their tribe, home agency, or area office of Indian Education. Check with your local BIA office for applications, eligibility and deadlines. The phone number for the California, Arizona, and Nevada BIA office is 1-702-887-3515.

The school's financial aid administrator must send a needs assessment to the director of the Higher Education program of the tribe, so the students have to file the FAFSA. Based on this need analysis, the student may be awarded "Higher Ed" grants. Awards typically range from $500 to $4,000 per year.

BIA/OIEP funds 26 institutions, including two it operates directly, Haskell Indian Nations University in Lawrence, Kansas, and Southwest Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The other 24 institutions are tribally-controlled community colleges represented by the American Indian Higher Education Consortium of Alexandria, Virginia.

BIA/OIEP also provides funding to students through a contract with the American Indian Graduate Center in Albuquerque. All fields of study are given consideration with priority to Business, Engineering, Health, Law and Natural Resources.

For general information about the Indian Higher Education Grants for undergraduate and graduate students, call 1-202-208-4871, 1-505-881-4584, or 1-202-208-7163, fax 1-202-208-6334, or write to US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Education, 1849 C Street, NW, Washington, DC 20240-0001. The phone number for the BIA Office of Public Affairs is 1-202-219-3711 and their fax number is 1-202-501-1516. The Bureau of Indian Affairs can also be reached at 1-800-332-9186.

See also the BIA Educational Native American Network (ENAN) (or the Univ. of Kansas description of ENAN) and BIA Office of Indian Education Programs (OIEP), especially the Branch of Postsecondary Education.

American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund provides more scholarships to Native American and Alaska Native students each year than any other non-profit organization. The American Indian College Fund also provides financial support to the nation's 33 accredited tribal colleges and universities. For more information, call 1-800-776-FUND, write to American Indian College Fund, 8333 Greenwood Boulevard, Denver, CO 80221 or send email to

Tribal Offices
Another good source of financial aid is the student's tribe. Some tribes have scholarships for their members, although the awards are usually for very small amounts. Very often if a student does not qualify for a BIA/OIEP grant, the tribe will award a "tribal" scholarship. Each tribe handles its own funding differently, with different award amounts and deadlines, so it is best to contact the tribe directly.

Indian Health Service (IHS)
The IHS web site provides information about the IHS Scholarship Program and the IHS Loan Repayment Program. The IHSSP Indian Health Service Scholarship provides full tuition and fees, books, uniforms, equipment, travel, insurance, national board exams, travel for clinical training, and a stipend for students majoring in health professions, engineering, and accounting. The deadline is usually March 31. For more information, call 1-301-443-6197, fax 1-301-443-6048, (call 1-301-443-3396 or fax 1-301-443-4815 for the loan program), or write to Indian Health Service, Scholarship Program, Twinbrook Metro Plaza, Suite 100, 12300 Twinbrook Parkway, Rockville, MD 20852.

Colleges and Universities
Many schools offer free tuition, room and board to Native American students, especially full-blooded Native American students. Be sure to ask each school you are considering what incentives they offer to encourage Native American students to enroll. There may also be special awards for students minoring in Native American studies.

For example, Native American students who attend any state school in Montana will qualify for a fee waiver if they are Montana residents, at least 1/4 Indian blood quantum, and have financial need. The fee waiver includes tuition and a $30 administrative fee, but not approximately $235 in other fees.

Daughters of the American Revolution American Indian Scholarship Fund
The Daughters of the American Revolution American Indian Scholarship Fund typically awards $500 scholarships to Native American students all across the country. Deadlines are August 1 for the fall and November 1 for the spring. For more information, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to Ms. Mary Barnett, Rt. 3, Box 530, Cynthiana, KY 41031.

Other Information Resources

Students should be particularly encouraged to use the extremely detailed Native America site listed below.

All Nations AMP
The goal of the All Nations Alliance for Minority Participation (AMP) in Science, Engineering, and Mathematics is to double the number of Native Americans graduating with Bachelor degrees in science, mathematics, engineering, and technology by the year 1999. Related web sites include Alabama AMP, Arizona State University HyperAMP and HyperAid, California AMP, Chicago AMP, New Mexico AMP, Oklahoma AMP, Puerto Rico AMP, and Texas AMP.

American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC)

American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES)
AISES has long been the frontrunner in Native American education and issues. Other AISES web pages include the AISES Scholarship Programs page and the AISES Circle of Life Essay Program for high school students.

For information about the Polingaysi Qoyawayma Scholarship (for graduate students who are going on to teach in math or science), call 1-303-492-8658 or write to AISES, 1630 30th Street, Suite 301, Boulder, CO 80301-1014.

Humboldt State University
A list of awards for Native Americans compiled by Humboldt State University. See also the INRSEP page.

Indian Resource Development (IRD)
New Mexico State University's IRD publishes a booklet entitled Sources of Financial Aid Available to American Indian Students. The booklet is free to New Mexico students and $4 for students from other states. IRD also administers a USDA Agricultural Statistics scholarship for Native American students majoring in agriculture, mathematics, computer science, or statistics. For more information, call 1-505-646-1347, fax 1-505-646-7740, write to Indian Resource Development, Box 30001, Department 3IRD, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003, or send email to

Native America
This site contains a lot of extremely useful information about Native Americans. It is packed with information regarding the great Indian Nations, pow-wow dates, and education. It also includes a page on scholarships called Using the Internet to Find Out About Colleges, Universities, and Financial Aid.

Native American Schools and Financial Aid
A long list of links to Native American schools, financial aid, and related topics.


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