American Indian College Fund
The American Indian College Fund is an nonprofit organization that helps Native American students, providing them with support through scholarships and funding toward higher education. The Fund provides 5,000 annual scholarships for American Indian students and also provides support for other needs at the tribal colleges ranging from capital support to cultural preservation activities. Charity Watch rates the American Indian College Fund an "A-" grade.
History and Mission
During the Civil Rights Acts and Native American self-determination movements in 1960s and 1970s, many tribes and tribal leaders came to the decision that there was a need for change in failed federal education policy and improve education for Native American students and future generations, leading to the creation of tribal colleges and universities.
The American Indian College Fund was launched in 1989 and raised funds from private sector sources to provide scholarship support to tribal colleges. This was the primary mission of the Fund, to generate broad awareness of those institutions and the Fund itself. The organization also raises money and resources for other needs at the schools, including capital projects, operations, endowments or program initiatives, and it will conduct fund raising and related activities for Board-directed initiatives. The American Indian College Fund made higher education, knowledge, and the enhancement and enrichment of culture more accessible and available for Native American students located in more rural areas of the country.
The idea for an Indian college fund was first proposed by Jan Crull Jr.,an aide to U.S. Congressman Paul Simon the then chairman of the U.S. House Subcommittee on Post-secondary Education, to the tribal college presidents and many other tribal officials assembled at the old American Indian Bank in Washington, D.C., on July 21, 1981.
Tribal colleges are vital to Native Americans and are beneficial to the country as a whole. They help Native communities and students gain a valuable education to help fight the poverty and unemployment within Indian Country and to also help in preserving Native language, culture and traditions.
The Navajo Nation was the first tribe to create the first tribal college, called Diné College, that was controlled by the tribe, located on the reservation and established specifically for the Native American students that wished to gain a higher education in 1968. With this first tribal college, the movement for higher education for the American Indian began. Since then, the number of tribal colleges and universities has grown to over 30 in the United States and 1 in Canada. The tribal colleges are located in Arizona, California, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, and Wisconsin and served more than 250 American Indian Nations from every geographic region in the United States.
TCUs are very important to all they serve. They receive little to no financial support. They also do not receive any local or state tax support and run mainly on private donations and gifts from foundations such as the AICF.
Past and Present Public Service Campaigns
The American Indian College Fund teamed up with Portland, Oregon-based advertising agency partner, Wieden+Kennedy, to give hope to Native Americans everywhere. In 2006, they launched a new campaign for the Fund called "If I Stay on the Rez" It is a series of five ads highlighting students who have attended a tribal college and plan to use their education on the reservation to help their people. The campaign builds awareness for the preservation of American Indian culture and history through tribal colleges. Richard B. Williams, the Fund president and CEO, says, "The American Indian College Fund video is unique opportunity to see a very important part of Indian country. We are educating the mind and spirit, and this is captured in the video."
In 2009, The Think Indian campaign was created to encourage a new generation to think back to their Native roots, to "Think Indian". This campaign was created once again with Wieden+Kennedy. The idea within the publications that can be found in magazines such as The New York Times Magazine, U.S. News and World Report and has appeared on television and radio, is going back to the roots of Native culture and tradition to help solve modern-day problems for all people. To Think Indian is to combine the knowledge of the past with the technology of today to help in making a better world for Indian Country as well as for the entire world.
- Charity Rating Guide and Watchdog Report, Volume Number 59, December 2011
- Paul Simon,chair. Subcommittee on Post-secondary Education of the Committee On Education and Labor, U.S. House of Representatives. Hearing:Oversight Hearing On Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act ,July 23, 1981. pp.: 161 Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1982