Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2024

tribal college

In this article, we profile the top 30 tribal colleges.

Tribal colleges and universities provide higher education to the members of Native American tribes. Most tribal colleges are located on, or near, the American Indian Reservation they serve. Some tribal institutions are community colleges. Others exist as universities and offer bachelor’s and master’s degree programs to members of various tribal nations.

30 Top Tribal Colleges Methodology

With a limited number of tribal colleges, we reviewed all 37 fully accredited institutions. We also looked at more schools in application status pending accreditation. We visited reputable online sources listing all Native American colleges. To plan our ranking, we examined graduation rate and affordability. Criteria were gathered from the National Center for Education Statistics – NCES College Navigator. We then listed the programs according to graduation rate. The school with the highest graduation rate earned a spot in our #1 position.

Featured Programs

Below are the resulting selections for our top 30 tribal colleges.

#30 – Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

New Town, North Dakota

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College - logo

Graduation Rate: 3%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,870

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College is a tribal college committed to an open-door policy for Native Americans. The goal is to provide access to quality higher education that fosters American Indian culture. The school was founded in 1973 and funded by Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act. Today, it provides higher education on the Fort Berthold Reservation. NHS offers three bachelor degree programs for members of various tribal nations. This is in alongside several two-year associate and certificate programs. These educational opportunities span various in-demand fields and disciplines. The college is accredited by the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges. Bachelor degree offerings for American Indian students include:

  • Elementary Education
  • Environmental Studies
  • Native Studies

Popular associate degree programs include:

  • Business Administration
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Social Work

#29 – Oglala Lakota College

Kyle, South Dakota

Oglala Lakota College - logo

Graduation Rate: 4%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,684

Oglala Lakota College in South Dakota is a leader among Native American colleges. It was one of the first tribally controlled colleges in the United States. The school currently offers Native Americans degrees at all levels. This includes associate, bachelor, and master. The American Indian institution was designated a Beating the Odds institution in 2011 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. This was in recognition of conferring a high level of bachelor and master degrees and preparing students for the workforce. Initially a community college, the institution awarded its first associate degree in 1974 and was accredited in 1983. Today, the South Dakota college offers several degrees in majors such as:

  • Business Administration
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Information Technology
  • Lakota Leadership and Management

The school is funded by the federal government.

#28 – White Earth Tribal and Community College

Mahnomen, Minnesota

Website

White Earth Tribal and Community College - logo

Graduation Rate: 6%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,232

White Earth Tribal and Community College lands at #28 on our list in terms of quality American Indian higher education. This is in part due to strong graduation rates and affordable tuition for Native Americans. White Earth is a member of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. It is also part of the National Association of Land Grant Institutions. Founded in 1979 as a partner to Moorehead State University, the tribal college went on to achieve its own accreditation in October of 2008. Today, it offers a wide variety of associate degree programs. These programs are designed for preparing students for immediate employment or transfer to a four-year institution. The American Indian institution is funded by the federal government. It is committed to educational equity through its open-door admission policy. Popular degree tracks include:

  • Elementary Education
  • Environmental Science
  • Human Services

#27 – Sisseton Wahpeton College

Sisseton, South Dakota

Sisseton Wahpeton College - logo

Graduation Rate: 7%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,510

Sisseton Wahpeton College in South Dakota appears on our list of tribal colleges and universities. This is mostly due to its affordable tuition rates and strong academic outcomes for Native Americans. As a 1994 Land Grant Institution, the college is committed to providing the people of the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate with higher education, job training, and continuing education. The institution of American Indian higher education maintains an open-door admission policy. This is in an effort to overcome educational challenges. This allows individuals with a high school diploma or GED to have access to education. The South Dakota college offers several associate in science and associate in arts college degree programs in majors such as:

  • Business Administration
  • Computer Systems Technology
  • Early Childhood Development
  • Sustainable Environmental Studies

#26 – Leech Lake Tribal College

Class Lake, Minnesota

Leech Lake Tribal College -logo

Graduation Rate: 7%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,198

Established in 1990 by its own tribal government, Leech Lake Tribal College makes our list of top 30 tribal schools. The American Indian institution earned full accreditation status from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 2006. This enables the school to confer associate degrees. These degrees are granted to those Native Americans who complete all graduation requirements. Leech Lake has an open-door admission policy. That means anyone with a high school diploma or GED can enroll at the institution. Leech Lake offers several areas of study for its students in accordance with their academic and career goals such as:

  • Business Management
  • Earth Systems Science
  • Law Enforcement
  • Liberal Arts – STEM

Besides coursework and native culture, students receive a wide range of support services. Examples include advising, tutoring, career counseling, and student activities.

#25 – Sinte Gleska University

Mission, South Dakota

Sinte Gleska University - logo

Graduation Rate: 7%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,154

Located on the Rosebud Sioux Reservation, Sinte Gleska University in South Dakota comes in at #25 on our list of top Native American colleges. This is largely due to its commitment to serving its students and the surrounding community. The institution of American Indian higher education was founded in 1970. It offers Native Americans certificate programs. This is alongside associate, bachelor and master degree programs. SGU is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission to confer the degrees listed in its academic catalog. The American Indian institution offers its degrees through many academic departments. Featured majors include:

  • Arts and Sciences
  • Education
  • Human Services
  • Information Technology

Financial aid in the form of grants, scholarships, and loans is available to those who qualify. Several Student organizations are available as part of the student life at SGU.

#24 – Stone Child College

Stone Child College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021Box Elder, Montana

Graduation Rate: 10%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,645

Stone Child College lands on our list at #24 of tribal colleges and universities for American Indians. The tribal college is a two-year community college committed to open access admission to those with a high school diploma or GED. Stone Child College is tribally controlled and was chartered on May 17, 1984. SCC is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. This is an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and U.S. Department of Education. The tribal college offers several certificate programs, associates of arts and science majors. This is alongside one bachelor’s degree in elementary education. Programs are provided to expand educational opportunities for Native Americans on the Indian reservation and surrounding communities. All American Indian students who are enrolled members of federally-recognized tribes within the United States must provide certification of Indian blood quantum for documentation. The school maintains transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

#23 – Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College

Mount Pleasant, Michigan

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College - logo

Graduation Rate: 10%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,210

Tribal colleges and universities such as Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College are recognized on this list of schools for American Indians. This is due to their strong graduation rates and affordable tuition. The institution of American Indian higher education was ratified as a tribal college in 1998. It became an accredited institution in 2007. Its humble beginnings featured just one office, two classrooms, and one computer lab. Since then, the college has gone on to serve thousands of students with technical education. In addition to certificate programs, the American Indian institution offers transfer-friendly associate degrees in business, liberal arts, Native American studies, and science. These are all designed to transfer to a four-year baccalaureate institution. Here, students continue working towards their academic and career goals. SCTC serves the Isabella Reservation and surrounding communities of the greater Mount Pleasant area. This is alongside a secondary area on the Saganing Reservation.

#22 – Diné College (Formerly Navajo Community College)

Tsaile, Arizona

Graduation Rate: 12%

Undergraduate Tuition: $1,410

Chartered by the Navajo Nation, Diné College is known as the first tribally controlled and accredited college in the United States for American Indian students. Established in 1968 as Navajo Community College, Diné serves a geographic region spanning over 27,000 square miles. This includes three states (Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico). The tribal college confers certificate programs as well as associate and bachelor degrees. Quality education programs are offered in various careers and disciplines. This is alongside cultural activities. This tribal community college for native students is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission of North Central Association of College and Schools.

#21 – Sitting Bull College

Fort Yates, North Dakota

Sitting Bull College -logo

Graduation Rate: 13%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,010

Located on the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota is Sitting Bull College. The school was formerly known as Standing Rock Community College. The tribal community college has been assisting native students in achieving their educational goals since 1973. It first opened its doors in the Douglas Skye Memorial Retirement Complex in Fort Yates with just three full-time staff. Today, the institution of American Indian higher education offers a robust academic catalog for its student body. It’s home to many certificate programs. This is alongside 15 associates degrees, eight bachelor degrees, and master’s degrees in education and science. Sitting Bull maintains its original open-door policy. This means it allows admission to any American Indian with a high school diploma or GED upon successful completion of an application.

#20 – Little Big Horn College

Little Big Horn College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021Crow Agency, Montana

Graduation Rate: 13%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,200

Breaking into the top 20 on our list, Little Big Horn College was chartered in 1980 with an enrollment of just 32 American Indian students. Today, Little Big Horn College serves several hundred students. These are students from the Crow Indian Reservation and surrounding communities. The school’s offerings include eight associate degrees. These two-year programs prepare students for employment or direct transfer to a four-year college or university. Aside from associate degree offerings, the college offers American Indians seven certificate programs. These offerings span in-demand fields and occupations such as:

  • Accounting
  • Information Systems
  • Tribal Management

The American Indian institution provides all federal financial aid programs except student loans to those who qualify. Little Big Horn maintains an open-door admission policy that allows anyone with a GED or high school diploma to enroll at the institution. Located on the Crow Indian Reservation, the school holds transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

#19 – United Tribes Technical College

Bismarck, North Dakota

United Tribes Technical College - logo

Graduation Rate: 15%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,252

As one of the top Native American colleges, United Tribes Technical College has served thousands of Native American students. These students have come from over 75 tribes over the past 50 years. The school earned its initial accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission in 1982. Since then, UTCC has also been a tribal college innovator. In fact, it was the first tribal college to offer fully online degree programs to American Indian students. The institution offers 20 distinct educational pathways> These programs include options from certificate programs to bachelor’s degrees. Popular majors include:

  • Automotive Technology
  • Business Administration
  • Computer Information Technology
  • Graphic Design
  • Pre-Engineering

Besides financial aid and scholarships, UTTC offers a full tuition waiver. The waiver is granted to full-time students who are members of a federally recognized American Indian Tribe.

#18 – Blackfeet Community College

Blackfeet Community College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021Browning, Montana

Graduation Rate: 15%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,370

Blackfeet Community College was chartered by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in 1974. Since then, it has grown into one of the top tribal colleges and universities. The school serves thousands of American Indian students each term as they pursue their educational goals and engage in cultural activities. The institution is accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. This is an accepted accreditation by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education. Through its six academic units, BCC offers over 20 certificate programs and degrees to American Indian students. Disciplines range from accounting and agri-business to tribal management and health science and nursing. Blackfeet has an open-door admission policy allowing students with a GED or high school diploma to enroll. The school also maintains a transfer agreement with the Montana University system.

#17 – Fort Peck Community College

Poplar, Montana

Fort Peck Community College - logo

Graduation Rate: 15%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,250

Fort Peck Community College was chartered in 1978 by the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes of the Fort Peck Reservation. Since then, it has grown into one of the top tribal schools in the country for American Indian students. This is due largely to its track record of academic achievement and affordable programs. The school is accredited by the Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities. All higher education programs from Fort Peck Community College are designed to support the 11,000 residents of northeast Montana. All degree pathways are designed to improve the economic standing of American Indians. They accomplish this goal through increased employability and personal development. The American Indian institution offers several associates of arts, science, and applied science programs in in-demand fields. Financial aid is available to those who qualify. The school maintains transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

#16 – Navajo Technical University

Crownpoint, New Mexico

Navajo Technical University - Tlogo

Graduation Rate: 16%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,070

What began as the Navajo Skill Center in 1979 has grown into one of the premier schools on our list: Navajo Technical University. The school is grounded in the Dine Philosophy of Education and located on the Navajo Nation. The university seeks to help its American Indian students and the community surrounding the Indian reservation to self-actualize. It accomplishes this goal through innovative Indian education programs. These programs are designed to promote employability, knowledge acquisition, and community service as well as native culture. NTU offers several dozen degree and certificate programs such as:

  • Automotive Technology Counseling
  • Creative Writing and New Media
  • Management Information Systems
  • Tribal Management

American Indian students can enter with a high school diploma or GED and exit the university with a master’s degree. NTU is an open-enrollment university that allows students with a HS diploma or GED to enroll.

#15 – Tohono O’odham Community College

Sells, ArizonaTohono O'odham Community College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 17%

Undergraduate Tuition: $932

Tohono O’odham Community College ranks #15 on our list of top tribal colleges and universities. The school was designated a full land grant institution in 2004. It earned its full higher education accreditation in 2005 after being chartered in 1998. TOCC’s graduation rate is far above the national norm for tribal institutions. It also has one of the lowest tuition rates of any institution in Arizona. Today, TOCC offers several direct employment and transfer degrees for American Indians in a wide variety of fields such as:

  • Computer Information Systems
  • Digital Media
  • Electrical Systems

Tohono O’odham’s admission policy reflects its open-door policy. That is, it allows American Indian students to enroll with a high school diploma or GED.

#14 – Northwest Indian College

Bellingham, WashingtonNorthwest Indian College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 19%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,840

Northwest Indian College was initially chartered as Lummi Community College in 1983. It is now the only accredited tribal college serving Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. It is also known nationally as one of the top tribal colleges and universities in the country for American Indian students. The school earned its initial higher education accreditation from the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities in 1993. Today, the college exists to foster American Indian Culture and education. It offers American Indians a wide variety of certificate programs as well as associate and bachelor degrees in high-demand fields such as:

  • Business and Entrepreneurship
  • Chemical Dependency
  • Native Environmental Science
  • Public and Tribal Administration

Aside from its main campus located on the Lummi Indian Reservation, Northwest Indian College has six fully functional satellite campuses. These are for students enrolled throughout Western Washington and Southwest Idaho.

#13 – Cankdeska Cikana Community College

Fort Totten, North DakotaCankdeska Cikana Community College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 20%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,300

Like many Native American colleges, Cankdeska Cikana Community College started from humble beginnings. The school was chartered in 1974 due to the growing demand for higher education on and around the Indian reservation. Since then, the college has grown into a fully accredited two-year institution accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers 15 higher education degrees. These credentials prepare American Indian students for the workforce or transfer to a four-year institution where they can pursue bachelor and master degrees. Featured programs include:

  • Early Childhood Education
  • Fine Arts
  • Natural Resource Management
  • Pre-Nursing
  • Pre-Engineering

Besides coursework, students at CCCC receive comprehensive support. Examples of support services for American Indian students include advising, career counseling, tutoring, technical assistance, and extracurricular opportunities.

#12 – Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

Albuquerque, New MexicoSouthwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 22%

Undergraduate Tuition: $1,095

Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute opened its doors in August of 1971. Since then, it has become one of the best tribal schools in the country for American Indians. This is due to its strong academic focus and dedication to student success. SIPI accepts American Indian students who meet certain criteria. These include verification of tribal affiliation, a high school diploma or GED, and one-quarter percent or more blood quantum of a federally recognized tribe. The institution of higher education offers a variety of applied science vocational degrees and liberal arts associate degrees. Vocational offerings prepare graduates for immediate employment in a specific field upon graduation. Liberal arts degrees prepare American Indian students to transfer to a four-year institution. Popular majors include:

  • Accounting
  • Culinary Arts
  • Geospatial Information Technology

#11 – Nebraska Indian Community College

Macy, Nebraska

Nebraska Indian Community College - logo

Graduation Rate: 25%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,080

Nebraska Indian Community College ranks just outside the top ten on our list. The school has been dedicated to educating native people for the past 40 years. The American Indian institution of higher education maintains an open-door policy. This gives students access to quality postsecondary education and training. American Indians with a GED or high school diploma are eligible to apply. NICC currently offers eight associate degrees and one certificate program. The associate degree pathways transfer to a four-year institution or move students directly into the workforce. Majors include:

  • Business
  • Human Services
  • Native American Studies

The school’s educational programs are funded by the Tribally Controlled College or University Act.

#10 – Bay Mills Community College

Brimley, Michigan

Bay Mills Community College - logo

Graduation Rate: 25%

Undergraduate Tuition: $3,320

Bay Mills Community College is one of only three Native American controlled colleges in Michigan. It has served the region faithfully since being chartered in 1984. It earned the designation of a land grant institution in 1994. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Bay Mills is committed to open access to higher education for American Indian students. This is apparent through its open admission policy. This policy allows students with a high school diploma or GED to enroll. Thanks to funding from the Tribally Controlled College of University Act, BMCC offers many educational programs and credentials. These include short-term diplomas and certificates all the way up to a bachelor’s degree. The institution is committed to offering relevant programs. This includes those that enrich students’ lives and offer promising employment prospects.

#9 – College of Menominee Nation

Keshena, WisconsinCollege of Menominee Nation - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 27%

Undergraduate Tuition: $6,200

The College of Menominee Nation is ranked among the top tribal colleges and universities. The school was chartered by the Menominee people in 1993. It was authorized as a land grant institution the following year. Menominee is a baccalaureate institution. It confers certificates, diplomas, associate degrees, and bachelor’s degrees. These programs span select disciplines and majors. Bachelor degree majors for American Indian students include:

  • Business Administration
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Education
  • Public Administration

Popular associate degree programs include:

  • Biological Sciences
  • Digital Media
  • Pre-Engineering

The open-door admission policy means potential students in the region are able to enroll in classes. To do so, they must provide proof of a high school diploma or GED. Financial aid and scholarships are available to those who qualify.

#8 – Turtle Mountain Community College

Belcourt, North Dakota

Turtle Mountain Community College - logo

Graduation Rate: 28%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,250

Turtle Mountain is one of the original six tribal institutions established in the 1970s. Chartered in 1972, Turtle Mountain has grown into a regional force. It offers many benefits for people in the area. These include vocational education, training, and economic development. The school boasts humble beginnings in an office on the second floor of a Catholic convent. Now, Turtle Mountain has several campuses for American Indian students. It has served thousands of students of all ages. Degree offerings range from diplomas to bachelor degrees. Bachelor degree offerings include educational opportunities in leadership and management and teacher education. Featured associate degrees include:

  • Accounting Technician
  • Building Construction Technology
  • Business Administration
  • Cyber Security

These educational programs are funded by the Tribally Controlled College or University Act.

#7 – Llisagvik College

Barrow, Alaska

Ilisagvik College - logo

Graduation Rate: 29%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,300

Llisagvik College is one of the few Alaskan tribal colleges and universities. It plays an integral role in the region’s educational attainment and economic development. The American Indian institution of higher education offers dozens of degree programs. These span high-demand fields for Alaska natives. Graduates are prepared for livable-wage occupations that bring fulfillment, social mobility, and pride. Majors include, but are limited to:

  • Accounting
  • Allied Health
  • Business Management
  • Dental Therapy
  • Information Technology

The open-door admission policy ensures anyone with a GED or high school diploma may enroll. Students have access to state and federal financial aid to help pay for part or all of their educational expenses.

#6 – Aaniiih Nakoda College (Formerly Fort Belknap College)

Harlem, MontanaAaniiih Nakoda College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 29%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,410

Landing at number six on our list of top Native American colleges is Aaniiih Nakoda College, formerly Fort Belknap College. The school offers students with a high school diploma or GED upward economic mobility through postsecondary education. The mission of the institution is to provide quality education to the residents of the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation. It also serves the neighboring tribal communities. The American Indian institution of higher education is fully accredited to confer degrees. These credentials are offered to those who complete all graduation requirements. Students receive many student services to support academic success. Some of these include academic and career counseling, tutoring, financial aid, and more. With dozens of educational opportunities like certificates, associate degrees, and bachelor degrees to choose from, students will find something that meets their needs. The school holds transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

#5 – College of the Muscogee Nation

Okmulgee, Oklahoma

College of the Muscogee Nation - logo

Graduation Rate: 31%

Undergraduate Tuition: $6,600

Breaking into the top 5 on our list, the College of Muscogee Nation is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The school serves the people of the Muscogee tribe as well as other tribal members. The campus sits on 32 acres of Indian reservation. It houses administrative buildings, classrooms, and student housing. Construction of a student center has also been recently completed. The college offers a total of six distinct associate degrees including:

  • Criminal Justice
  • Gaming
  • General Studies
  • Native American Studies
  • Natural Resources
  • Tribal Services

The American Indian institution of higher education boasts an exceptional graduation rate along with affordable tuition. This combination makes it an excellent value and the only accredited tribal college on our list in Oklahoma.

#4 – Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Cloquet, MinnesotaFond du Lac Tribal and Community College - Top 30 Tribal Colleges 2021

Graduation Rate: 32%

Undergraduate Tuition: $5,461

Ranked #4 on our list, Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College was created by the Minnesota Legislature in 1987. It received its official charter that same year. Today, the American Indian institution of higher education is a comprehensive community college. It offers several degrees as well as comprehensive student services. Examples include advising, housing, financial aid, career counseling, student clubs, collegiate athletics, and more. In terms of educational opportunities, the college currently offers well over 50 associate degrees. These credentials prepare the student for transfer to a four-year institution or to enter the workforce upon graduation. Popular majors include:

  • Business
  • Corrections
  • Elementary Education
  • Nursing
  • Social Work

FDLTCC maintains an open-door admission institution. Anyone with a GED or high school diploma can attend. It is also dedicated to the preservation of native languages.

#3 – Chief Dull Knife College

Lake Deer, Montana

Website

Chief Dull Knife College - logo

Graduation Rate: 44%

Undergraduate Tuition: $2,260

Chief Dull Knife College enters into the top three of our list of top tribal colleges and universities. The American Indian institution of higher education boasts an excellent graduation rate and affordable tuition. This makes it an excellent choice for those living in its service area. Originally chartered in 1975, Chief Dull Knife College is now fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It offers an array of associate degree programs. These programs are designed for workforce readiness or academic transfer to a 4-year institution. Along with a full menu of student services to promote academic success in the classroom, Chief Dull Knife College also offers a rich student life. Moreover, it is dedicated to the preservation of native languages. Sports and clubs foster community and relationship building. It maintains transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

#2 – Haskell Indian Nations University

Lawrence, Kansas

Haskell Indian Nations University -logo

Graduation Rate: 46%

Undergraduate Tuition: $480

Landing just outside the top spot of our list of Native American colleges is Haskell Indian Nations University. The school goes back as far as 1884 when it specialized in agricultural training for children on the Indian reservation in grades 1-5. The institution of higher education began offering junior college coursework in 1970 and became a university in 1993. Today, the university serves more than 1,000 students per semester. Its student body is a diverse population from federally recognized tribes all over the United States. Haskell is divided into distinct academic units. These include the Schools of Business, Education, Humanities, and Natural and Social Sciences. Students are able to choose from a wide range of associate and bachelor degree programs.

#1 – Salish Kootenai College

Pablo, Montana

Salish Kootenai College -logo

Graduation Rate: 52%

Undergraduate Tuition: $4,311

Salish Kootenai College is ranked as the number one institution of higher education on our list. The school has awarded thousands of associate and bachelor degrees. It first opened its doors in 1977. Today, it enrolls nearly one thousand students every semester. The diverse population includes tribal nations members, descendants, and people of various racial and ethnic backgrounds. Today, students at Salish Kootenai College can choose from dozens of workforce, transfer, and bachelor degrees. These programs span high demand fields such as:

  • Bookkeeping
  • Business Management
  • Dental Assisting Technology
  • Digital Design
  • Psychology

Salish Kootenai College has a long track record of success of helping students earn their degree and move on to successful careers. It holds transfer agreements with the Montana University system.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What are tribal colleges?

Tribal colleges and universities were established over the last 50 years as part of the tribal college movement. The goal of this movement was to provide Native American Indians with the ability to pursue college education. They often serve geographically isolated populations outside of mainstream colleges. These are American Indian students with very limited access to education beyond high school. As such, they have become very integral parts of the communities in which they live. Native American culture is interwoven throughout each institution’s curriculum, practices, and guiding principles. Many institutions follow the Diné Philosophy of Education. This philosophy is grounded in Navajo traditions that combine values in accordance with the natural cycles of the world such as day and night and the various seasons.

Every tribal college has been chartered by the tribal government that oversees it as part of its nation building efforts. Since the start of the tribal college model, enrollment has increased exponentially. Many institutions started out from very humble beginnings, often with just a handful of students in one or two rooms. Today, tribal colleges throughout the United States serve over 30,000 students. These students come from more than 200 federally recognized Indian tribes. Schools boast various enrollments ranging from a few hundred to several thousand. Most students served by these institutions face several barriers to successful education. These include high rates of unemployment and poverty, with over 75% of students being Pell Grant eligible. To make postsecondary education attainable, nearly all tribal colleges have an open admission policy. This policy allows any student with a GED or high school diploma to enroll.

Who funds tribal schools?

State governments are not obligated to fund tribal colleges. Thus, these institutions often face funding challenges as they attempt to serve students within their communities. States including Arizona, North Dakota, and Montana do provide some state funding, while the others do not. Federal funding makes up the most significant portion of monies allocated to tribal colleges. Established in 1978, a White House initiative called the University Assistance Act established a series of methods and means through which tribal colleges receive federal dollars. Title I currently distributes funds to two-thirds of tribal institutions. Distributions are determined through a formula based on the number of Native Americans enrolled. The maximum $6,000 per student up to a total of $40 million. Title I funding is not allocated for non-Native Americans. Besides Title I funding, Title II, III, and IV funding is available. These funds are for both operating and capital expenses along with economic development projects.

There are four major funding streams that divide dollars among nearly all 32 accredited institutions. Funds for each tribal college are managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. To make up for the lack of state funds, tribal institutions perform outreach. They secure private donations from local, regional, and national organizations. These donations help buttress financial shortfalls.

How many tribal colleges are there in the United States?

There are currently 37 fully accredited tribal colleges. More are in application status to earn accreditation. These institutions offer nearly 400 total programs serving federally recognized Indian tribes. Offerings range from short-term diplomas and certificates to masters degrees. Approximately half of all programs are associate degrees. These two-year programs prepare the graduate to continue studies toward a bachelor’s degree. Alternatively, they are qualified to enter the workforce in a specific career.

Tribal colleges are the only higher education institutions in the regions in which they are located. Thus, they serve a diverse population. This includes students of all ages from young adults to senior citizens. Surrounding areas are often plagued by high levels of poverty and unemployment. This means tribal colleges are integral to carrying out not just educational services, but crucial social services.

Most tribal colleges and universities are located in the Southwest and Midwest. Enrollment at hovers at approximately 30,000 students attending either full-time or part-time. Established in 1968 on the Navajo Nation reservation, Diné College was the first accredited and tribally controlled postsecondary institution in the United States. Originally named Navajo Community College, the institution is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The school is lead by President Dr. Charles “Monty” Roessel.

If you are not a member of the tribes it serves, can you attend a tribal college?

When it comes to enrolling at a tribal college or university, an applicant’s native status can impact the process in many ways. Most institutions have open-door admission policies and allow those with a GED or high school diploma to enroll. Some institutions follow strict guidelines. These schools only allow students who are members of a federally recognized tribe, or are the biological child of a member, to enroll. These types of institutions ask students to show proper documentation proving their status. Other tribal colleges allow non-native students to apply to the college and enroll in courses. The situation is complex. These institutions do not receive funding for non-native students. This further exacerbates already stretched budgets. Thus, most tribal colleges are made up of mainly Native Americans.

Tribal colleges serve mostly non-traditional female students. Traditional colleges and universities serve students ages 18-24. A slight majority of the population is female. The composition of student bodies at tribal colleges is vastly different. The average age is 31.5, with the vast majority being female. The typical tribal college student is described as a single mother in her early thirties. This demographic make up does vary by institution. For example, Sissetone Wahpeton Community College serves 76% females. That’s compared to just 46% at Haskell Indian Nations University.

How are tribal schools different than other colleges?

There are several salient differences between tribal and non-tribal colleges. The foremost difference would be the cultural influences that drive traditions and practices. Tribal colleges purposefully infuse their institutions with native traditions, customs, and artifacts that represent their way of life. The vast majority of students at tribal colleges are either members of a federally recognized tribe or a child of a member. Thus, having a familiar culture is critical to student success.

Tribal colleges attempt to provide a global education that is useful outside of a specific region. Thus, they balance American Indian culture with Western cultural traditions and practices. Non-native institutions are mainly European cultural spaces. As such, they serve a majority of white students.

Tribal colleges and universities also differ in their admission practices. Nearly all tribal institutions have open-door admission policies. These allow students with a high school diploma or GED to enroll, analogous to the community college system. Tribal colleges allow great access to postsecondary education and training. On the other hand, most non-native institutions have selective admission processes. These procedures judge students on various components. Examples include standardized test scores, high school grades, letters of recommendation, and admission essays.

CVO Staff

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This concludes our list of top 30 tribal colleges.