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University of Illinois Sets In-State Tuition Rates for Tribal Nation Students

Students from any of the 573 tribal nations in the U.S. will be able to enjoy in-state tuition rates at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) starting this fall, the school announced on Tuesday.

Officials attributed the lower representation of such groups on college and university campuses across the nation, including at UIC, as a reason for the initiative.

With the latest decision, the university is anticipating a surge in applications from students belonging to the 573 tribal nations recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Currently, the university hosts nearly 600 students who identify as American Indian/Alaska Native and multiracial.

“What we are doing is taking away one of the financial roadblocks, which is out-of-state tuition and recognize the historic tie between Illinois with the American tribal nations,” Kevin Browne, vice provost for academic and enrollment services at UIC, said.

“One of the things we wanted to do to create a fairer playing field for Native Americans is to recognize that their nations did not recognize state boundaries.”

The National Center for Education Statistics reported that between 1976 to 2017, only 1 percent of students in U.S. post-secondary institutions have identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native. Considering that the enrollment numbers of other minority groups and low-income students has significantly risen over the last two decades, according to data released by the Pew Research Center, these tribal nation statistics remain extremely low.

Members of tribal nations will pay the Illinois in-state tuition rate of $10,584, rather than the $23,800 cost for out-state students, resulting in a net savings of $13,000 to $14,000 per year. The students will also have access to the school’s Native American Support Program, an assistance program to help and support American Indian and Alaska Native students trying to fit in on campus.

“It’s definitely needed, for UIC to even embark on this is wonderful,” Cynthia Soto, director of the Native American Support Program at UIC, said. “We are on native land, this is Indigenous land and just because the state of Illinois has no federally recognized tribal nations does not mean that UIC should not have a responsibility and commitment to native people.”

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