Students and activists protested at the University of Minnesota, demanding that the school honor its promises to tribal communities. They asked the school to expand a learning support program that they say few have access to, MPR News reported.
The Native American Promise Tuition Program — announced in 2021 and launched last fall — offers free or reduced tuition based on family income, but is limited to enrolled members of Minnesota’s 11 federally recognized tribal nations and requires participants to be college freshmen or transfer students students. from the trunk rails.
In fall 2022, 18 of 146 Indigenous freshmen received funding through the program. The program excludes displaced Lakotas and Dakota who were forced to settle in what are now other states, said Laila Gourd, a sophomore from North Dakota’s Spirit Lake Nation.
The protest — organized by The American Indian Student Cultural Center with the school’s Students for a Democratic Society chapter — called for expanding the program to include current undergraduate, graduate and professional students and descendants of all federally or state-recognized tribal nations. .
Several universities, including the U of M, have profited from the sale and lease of land taken by the Dakota people in the 1800s, according to High Country News.
“It’s just insanely inadequate considering that the University of Minnesota is a land-grabbing university,” Sorcha Lona, an organizer with Students for a Democratic Society. “They owe their indigenous students free tuition.”
In response, the university said the program was nascent and not yet complete. Earlier this month, the school applied for state funding for a full-tuition program that would expand eligibility — a request included in Gov. Tim Walz’s revised budget plan.
“Many students who currently qualify for the Native American Promise Tuition Program receive a large share of support from other existing programs from federal, state and university sources,” said university spokesman Jake Ricker. “I think it’s worth repeating something the university has already said about this program, which is in its first year. This program does not represent a finished work.’