Financial Aid for Native American Students

Roxana Hadad

September 03, 2008

College is a great way to build on your education and advance your career, but paying for it can be stressful. Fortunately, there are lots of financial assistance programs specifically for Native Americans.


Many Native American scholarships require that you establish eligibility. Eligibility requirements vary depending on the award. Often, you must be an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe. A Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood (CIDB) card or document serves as proof of tribe membership. Other awards and programs may rely upon descent requirements (at least one grandparent or one parent as tribal member) to establish eligibility.

For more information on the tribal affiliations and federally recognized tribes, call the Bureau of Indian affairs at (202) 208-3710.

Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)

For government-sponsored funds that directly target the Native American community, check with the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). The BIA is a subsection of the U.S. Department of the Interior. It offers a wide array of services that benefit the Native American population, including funds for education. These funds are meant to supplement other sources of federal funding.

Usually, to be eligible for BIA money you must:

* demonstrate financial need

* be a member of a BIA recognized Native American tribe

* have at least one-fourth degree Indian blood (at least one grandparent is of Indian blood)

* be enrolled in an accredited institution of higher education.

In addition, to apply for a BIA grant you must obtain and submit:

* an application from the area or agency office that serves your tribal affiliation

* your CIDB (obtained from your BIA Tribal census office)

* your high school transcripts, G.E.D. scores or transcripts from the previous college semester

* your letter of acceptance from your college

* your school's financial aid package

Your school's financial aid officer must also complete Needs Analysis Application and the BIA Financial Aid Package Form.

For more information, call the BIA's Office of Indian Education Programs at (202) 208-6123 or visit their Web site at

Tuition Reduction and Waiver Programs

Some colleges offer tuition reductions or complete tuition waivers for qualified Native Americans. You usually have to meet certain academic requirements and be the registered member of a federally recognized tribe or a certain percentage of provable blood. Check with your prospective schools to see if they offer this benefit.

Tribal Colleges and the American Indian College Fund

Tribal colleges are schools designed by Native Americans to address special concerns of this population: high poverty rates, educational failure and cultural loss. They support higher education for tribal members and stimulate economic opportunities within the reservation community.

In 1986, the 32 tribal colleges of the United States joined together to create the American Indian College Fund. The Fund's purpose is to raise scholarship and operation funds for the colleges and their students. To learn more about the scholarship opportunities available through the American Indian College Fund, visit their home page at

Private Scholarships

Some specific tribes offer grants or scholarships from their funds to students who are registered members of their tribe. There are also several scholarships sponsored by Native American associations and other organizations. For example, the American Indian Science and Engineering Society ( sponsors a variety of awards for students in the physical and biological sciences.

But you aren't limited to scholarships for Native Americans. Also check out awards for students of minority status. To find scholarships, complete a FastWeb scholarship search at And learn about other funding opportunities for Native Americans at

Do your research and you may find ways to bring down the cost of your college education.

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