University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University Announce Native American Student Support Programs

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By the end of Indigenous Peoples Day, all public universities in Oregon had programs in place to provide financial support for Native American students.

The University of Oregon and Eastern Oregon University announced programs on Monday, following the five other public universities in Oregon that have made similar progress in recent months.

The Home Flight Scholars program at the University of Oregon differs from what is offered at other public universities, with an emphasis on in-state students rather than those who live elsewhere in the country. The UO program will cover full tuition and fees, and provide counseling and mentorship opportunities for undergraduate Native American students at UO. Eligible students must be enrolled members of one of the 574 federally recognized tribes and be residents of Oregon. Money for the program comes from a combination of federal, state and institutional grants.

“The university is dedicated to the success of Native American/Native American students in Oregon,” OU Acting President Patrick Phillips said in a statement. “The Home Flight Scholars program addresses the unique challenges these students face and prepares them to graduate with an education and experience that allows them to return home and make a positive impact in their communities and for their families. families.”

The program is immediately available to OU’s approximately 150-175 Native American undergraduate students who are Oregon residents, subject to eligibility.

The UO developed the program with its Native American Advisory Council, according to the university.

Five public universities in Oregon previously announced programs that offer in-state tuition to Native American students enrolled in any federally recognized tribe, regardless of where they live. Eastern Oregon University’s recently announced program follows this model.

“The EOU has provided scholarships to Native American students for many years,” Genesis Meaderds, EOU director of admissions, said in a statement. “Our new tuition policy is helping to expand the work of the university to many Indigenous peoples across the country.”

The UO program offers mentorship, professional opportunities and financial support

In addition to helping with tuition and fees, the UO program creates an academic advisor position specifically for Native American students. The program will provide opportunities such as professional conferences and tribal job fairs or internships. It also provides mentorship to faculty and peers and continues ongoing academic support for students who live at Kalapuya Ilihi Residence Hall in the Native American and Indigenous Studies Academic Residential Community.

Megan Van Pelt is a resident assistant for this residential community and co-director of the university’s Native American Student Union.

She is also a recipient of the Oregon Tribal Student Grant, a new state grant that covers tuition and living expenses for student members of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes. This grant is only funded during the current academic year and will require further authorization from the Oregon Legislature to continue.

Van Pelt spoke with OPB last month about the impact of this grant. He still has a year left at the UO after this current school year. After learning about the new UO program, Van Pelt said she was relieved to know that she won’t have to worry about how to pay the rest of her undergraduate expenses.

“I remember my freshman year, I actually wanted to drop out because I couldn’t afford to be here, and that’s a scary thought,” Van Pelt said Monday at a media event at the OU. “That’s why it’s so important, and especially on Indigenous Peoples Day.”

Jason Younker, Chief of the Coquille Tribe and Assistant Vice President of OU, spoke on Monday about the impact of the new program on Indigenous students and communities.

“We’re very, very aware of who’s on campus and why we’re supporting them through their education because it makes a difference going forward,” Younker said. “These are our future stewards. They will return to the tribes and they will be the allies of U of O. They will be our future leaders. It is so important for them to have the necessary support they need while going to school.

According to data from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, fewer Native American students enroll in college after graduating from high school compared to their non-Native peers.

In 2020, approximately 49% of Native American high school graduates enrolled in college within 16 months of graduation. This compares to about 63% of white students and 79% of Asian students.

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