Senate field hearing examines college tuition costs for Native Americans, states

Some Native American tribes have negotiated college tuition waivers as part of the land-grant agreements between the federal government and tribes. Because of those agreements, states are required to cover the full cost of the tuition reimbursements with no assistance from the federal government.

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“The question before us today is not whether or not the tuition waiver programs should continue,” Bennet said Wednesday. “The waivers clearly should continue and all of us engaged in this issue are deeply committed to that. The question we face is how we can equitably share the responsibilities for these programs to ensure they thrive and that educational opportunities for Native American youth can continue to grow.”

Bennet said Colorado alone has spent more than $110 million for the tuition waiver program in the past 25 years, burdening states experiencing tough budgetary times.

Bennet introduced the Native American Education Act on Aug. 2, before the recess started. S. 3504 would require the U.S. Department of Education to cover the costs of tuition waivers for any out-of-state students, while states would continue to pay for any in-state tuition waivers.

Bennet said his bill would alleviate the burden on the education budget for each state.

Democratic Sens. Daniel Akaka (Hawaii), Mark Begich (Alaska), Al Franken (Minn.), Amy Klobuchar (Minn.) and Mark Udall (Colo.) are co-sponsors of the legislation.