New policy affects tuition for American Indians

Correction added.

As of spring 2014, members of federally recognized American Indian tribes have the opportunity to attend Arizona state universities at the in-state rate, provided that their reservation resides partially or wholly in Arizona, according to the Arizona Board of Regents’ updated residency requirements.

In a recent news release, ABOR announced its revised policy for enrolled members of Arizona tribes.

“For purposes of residency classification, enrollment as a tribal member in a federally recognized Arizona tribe will be sufficient to establish residency for tuition purposes," the release states.

The added policy allows American Indian tribe members whose reservation may extend outside Arizona's borders the opportunity to return and continue their pursuit of higher education in the state.

Regent LuAnn Leonard said the new policy was merely one update of many to the residency requirement policies. Employed with approximately 30 staff members to oversee these updates, revising has been a main concern over the past year for the board, she added.

“Our hope is to attract tribal members to come to school in Arizona to help us grow and flourish," Leonard said.

In addition, the policy may reign in students who leave the state to attend tribal colleges on reservations elsewhere, such as in New Mexico.

According to ASU's annual report, American Indians make up a small fraction of the total minority undergraduates, with 273 out of the 4,083 total minority degrees awarded from 2002-11.

The policy was supported by all three university presidents, as well as the involved regions, Leonard said.

She said she attributes this collective agreement as a result of the wide understanding and value of higher education.

In addition to enticing students to attend state universities, the policy serves as an aid to many reservations that are economically unstable, she said.

Leonard said some reservations are not economically stable. She said her tribe, the Hopi tribe, was at a 40 percent unemployment rate the last she knew.

Gary Lewallen, a lecturer at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and adviser for the Native American Student Organization, said the policy is a step in the right direction as it will increase the number of graduates in the Native American community. It will also allow gradual growth and reform to occur on the reservations.

"Institutions have a lot more resources and greater depth in the faculty and many of the services that help students successfully go through school," Lewallen said.

The limited resources many reservations face serve as a hindrance toward American Indian students who want to continue their higher education, he said.

"They have all the basic skills to be successful in college," he said. "They just need an opportunity to do it."

Justin Hongeva, a graduate student in the American Indian Affairs master’s program, said he thinks the policy will attract more Native American students to ASU.

“I think it’s a good thing," he said. "I think education should be affordable to all people. It gives them opportunities."

The Arizona Board of Regents policy 4-203 went into effect Monday.

Reach the reporter at or follow her on Twitter @_KennedyScott

Correction: Because of a reporting error, Gary Lewallen's title was incorrect in an earlier version of this article. It has been corrected.

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