WASHINGTON – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack recently announced that 22 tribal colleges in nine states have been chosen to receive $4.1 million in grants through the USDA Rural Development Tribal College Initiative Grant Program.
The program helps Equity in Educational Land Grant tribal institutions purchase equipment, finance infrastructure improvements – such as a library – and develop facilities that will help meet the needs of American Indian communities.
“Investing in education and in educational facilities is key to increasing economic development in tribal communities,” Vilsack said. “These institutions can now benefit from funding that will enable them to plan to meet community infrastructure, job creation and business expansion needs.”
Chad Parker, USDA acting director for Single Family Housing, said the Tribal College Grant Program has been funded annually since fiscal year 2000. The average amount funded this year per institution by the grant program is $196,000. “Universities apply annually for funding and go through the application process for a specific project each fiscal year. The funding is typically used for purchasing equipment, educational facilities, laboratory facilities, classrooms, vocational and technical skills facilities and computers.”
Occasionally, Parker said, the program has funded less traditional requests such as a $300,000 child care facility on the campus of Northwest Indian College in Whatcom County, Wash. More than 60 percent of the student body at the college in 2006 when the facility was funded was female, and of that population 85 percent were single mothers. The new facility was expected to have a positive impact on both student retention and recruitment.
Tammye Trevino, administrator, Rural Housing Service USDA, said each tribe has different economic needs. “This funding is important for tribal communities, especially to those that don’t have deep pockets and have no other avenues. They need to have the chance to create better educational opportunities for their students.” The grant program is funded through the USDA Rural Development Community Facilities Program under Trevino’s administration.
Janie Hipp, USDA senior advisor to Secretary Vilsack for tribal affairs and director of the Office of Tribal Relations, said the Tribal College Grant Program is only one example of what USDA Rural Development does to help American Indian communities. So far in fiscal year 2010, through July 31, USDA Rural Development has invested $462 million in projects benefiting tribal communities. Funds were dispersed for 116 community projects and used to build about 1,100 homes for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Loans and grants for projects included $102.3 million for electric programs to extend electric service to underserved areas, $102.3 million for water and environmental programs, $85.8 million for community facilities, $76 million for a broadband initiative program, $3.8 million for business and cooperative programs and $91 million for housing.
“I hope we continue to see increases in applications from the tribes for funding that comes through Rural Development,” Hipp said.
The following are the colleges selected for funding through the Tribal College Grant Program in the current fiscal year. Funds are contingent upon the recipient meeting the conditions of the grant agreement.
- Tohono O’odham Community College: $196,600. The funding will be used to equip four classrooms with the latest in technological equipment and furniture.
- Bay Mills Community College: $196,500. The funding will be used to make improvements on all three campus sites. The improvements to the main campus include a parking lot, library and improvements to the learning center. A classroom will be added to the existing EMS building. The 40 acre agriculture research site improvements include a new driveway and a power and water well.
- Leech Lake Tribal College: $196,400. The funding will be used to upgrade equipment at the college.
- White Earth Tribal and Community College: $196,600. The funding will be used to help purchase an existing building and equipment to utilize the facility for both classroom and faculty offices.
- Blackfeet Community College: $196,400. The funding will be used to purchase equipment and supplies for the new “green” math/science building on the main campus located in Browning, Mont.
- Little Big Horn College: $196,400. The funding will be used to purchase equipment for the health and wellness facility.
- Stone Child College: $196,400. The funding will be used to purchase equipment and supplies for the Little Bear Health Enhancement Center, Physical Fitness Certificate Program, Athletic Program, Allied Health Program, and Nursing Program.
- Fort Belknap College: $196,400. The funding will be used to construct an addition to the cultural center by adding two immersion classrooms.
- Confederated Salish & Kootenai College: $196,400. The funding will be used for construction of a new Extension Education Complex headquarters which will provide offices, meeting space, training space, and vegetable and native seed processing space.
- Fort Peck Community College: $196,400. The funding will be used for energy efficient renovations and rehabilitation of facilities.
- Chief Dull Knife College: $196,400. The funding will be used to purchase an A/C unit for the information technology room, replace kitchen equipment, building renovations and purchase a 12 passenger van and four-door sedan.
- Nebraska Indian Community College: $196,400. The funding will be used to provide a paved access road and paved campus parking lot to the already existing facility.
- Little Priest Tribal College: $196,400. The funding will be used to enhance the education facility of by expanding their classrooms, including a new lecture hall and classroom facilities.
- Cankdeska Cikana Community College: $196,500. The funding will be used to construct hallways that will connect the entire campus.
- United Tribes Technical College: $196,400. The funding will be used to complete a parking lot at the new campus location to accommodate 145 vehicles.
- Turtle Mountain Community College: $196,500. The funding will be used for college parking lot expansion to include installation of curbing and paving to accommodate an additional 90 vehicles and provide a safe parking facility for students and staff.
- Sitting Bull College: $196,500. The funding will be used to complete on campus road lighting and paving.
- South Dakota
- Sisseton Wahpeton College: $196,500. The funding will be used for a library expansion project.
- Oglala Lakota College: $196,400. The funding will be used to assist in renovations to the college center.
- Sinte Gleska University: $196,400. The funding will be used to assist in construction of a classroom.
- Northwest Indian College: $196,500. The funding will be used to begin Phase III of building which includes: engineering, clearing, common utilities, water distribution systems, sanitary sewer systems, storm water retention, water quality control systems, roadway construction, lighting and sidewalks.
- College of Menominee Nation: $196,600. The funding will be used for a parking lot expansion and emergency generator, which is needed for the new library to address lighting and HVAC system electrical needs should there ever be a power failure on campus.
The USDA, through Rural Development, administers and manages more than 40 housing, business and community infrastructure and facility programs. USDA Rural Development has a national network of 6,100 employees located in the nation’s capital and 500 state and local offices. These programs are designed to improve the economic stability of rural communities, businesses, residents, farmers and ranchers and improve the quality of life in rural America.