Financial Education for Native Students

“Education is part of the web of life. We learn from our elders…we learn from nature. In the process, we learn to honor and support our own cultural roots and traditions,” says the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), which recently partnered with the American Indian College Fund (the fund) to offer a series of four handbooks titled Developing Your Vision While Attending College.

Book One: Making the Decision to Attend College discusses how to prepare for college, whether it be after high school or as a returning student, as well as choosing a college and financial preparations. Book Two: Paying for A College Education talks about scholarships, avoiding scholarship scams, federal grants and student loans. Book Three: Managing Your Money gives students an idea of how to open checking accounts, control credit cards and budgeting. Book Four: Choosing Your Path deals with transitions, whether it be from a community college to a four-year institution or to a graduate school, or transitioning into the job market.

To appeal to Native American students, the series promotes educational success by featuring stories of personal struggle and showing how success in education is intertwined with culture.

“American Indians are at a disadvantage financially when planning for college due to high levels of poverty and unemployment on Indian reservations, making it even more important that Native peoples plan their resources carefully,” said Richard B. Williams, the fund’s president and CEO, in a press release. “We are thrilled to have the support of the National Endowment for Financial Education, with whom we collaborated to develop these important tools that can help Natives successfully navigate the road to getting into college from a financial standpoint. Wise financial planning is integral to getting into and staying in college to ensure students’ academic and career success.”

“Planning and preparation can lead to community success in achieving goals. This holds true in terms of an individual’s finances too,” said Brent Neiser, NEFE senior director. “Having knowledge of the fundamental concepts of money management, paired with tribal values and higher education are tremendously beneficial in both community and individual settings.”

The final page of the fourth book encourages Native students to give back to their Native communities by becoming a mentor to younger generations, working in a career that provides a service to the community, or starting a business to bring employment to their reservation.

“Black Elk said, ‘Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle.’ Your education is part of that circle. As your vision of the future unfolds, we hope you will share what you have learned with others,” reads the last page of the fourth book.


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Financial Education for Native Students