University of Arizona will waive college tuition for Native students in the state

Jun 29, 2022, 12:16 PM
The University of Arizona is waiving tuition and fees for undergraduate students enrolled in one of...
The University of Arizona is waiving tuition and fees for undergraduate students enrolled in one of the state's federally recognized tribes. (Kirby Lee/AP via CNN)
(Kirby Lee/AP via CNN)

(CNN) — The University of Arizona announced this week that it will soon waive tuition and fees for undergraduate students enrolled in one of the state’s 22 federally recognized tribes.

The program, known as the Arizona Native Scholars Grant, will be open to current and incoming Native American students starting this fall, according to a university news release. More than 400 students enrolled last year are eligible for the initiative, the university said.

“Serving Arizona’s Native American tribes and tribal students is a crucial part of the University of Arizona’s land-grant mission, and the Arizona Native Scholars Grant program is another important step among many to do that,” university President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement. “I am so proud that that this university has found a way to help hundreds of students more easily access and complete a college education, and I look forward to finding ways to take these efforts even further.”

University of Arizona is one of several state colleges and universities to announce it would cover tuition and fees for Native American students, with institutions in CaliforniaColoradoMichigan and Oregon among those with similar initiatives.

The university was built on and with Indigenous land

Given the University of Arizona’s history, the move might be viewed as a form of reparations for the state’s Indigenous peoples.

The University of Arizona is a land-grant institution, one of dozens of colleges and universities in the U.S. that were funded through the sale of expropriated Indigenous lands. These institutions were born out of the 1862 Morrill Act, which sought to make higher education more accessible for the nation’s farm workers and industrial classes. Under the law, states were granted federal lands that could then be sold to help fund agricultural and mechanical colleges.

The federal lands that generated money for higher education, however, were taken from Native people. A 2020 investigation by High Country News found that the U.S. seized nearly 11 million acres of Indigenous lands from nearly 250 tribes, bands and communities to build the land-grant university system. Not only were many of those colleges and universities built on Indigenous lands, but their endowments were partly funded by them — and some institutions continue to profit off those lands to this day, High Country News reported.

The University of Arizona — which sits on lands once inhabited by the Pima, Yuman, Tohono O’odham, Navajo and Apache peoples — received more than 143,000 acres as part of the Morrill Act and raised nearly $450,000 in endowment principal, according to High Country News data.

Tribal leaders called for tuition waivers

As part of its designation as a land-grant institution, the University of Arizona has publicly committed to serving the state’s Indigenous communities.

For Levi Esquerra, senior vice president for Native American advancement and tribal engagement at the school, that means building relationships with tribes and working to address their concerns.

Tribal leaders had specifically asked the university to waive tuition for Native students given its history as a land-grant institution, Esquerra said. His office worked with partners in the admissions, provost’s and president’s offices to make it happen.

“These initiatives and things we’re doing … they’re not checkmarks,” he told CNN. “They’re a long time coming, but they build on our relationships with tribal communities.”

About 3% of undergraduate students enrolled at the University of Arizona in fall 2021 identified as American Indian or Alaska Native — meaning that Indigenous people are slightly underrepresented given that they make up about 5% of Arizona’s population.

Nationally, less than 1% of undergraduates are of American Indian or Alaska Native descent, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. And while college enrollment has declined over the past decade overall, that data indicates that American Indians and Alaska Natives have experienced the steepest declines.

The-CNN-Wire™ & © 2022 Cable News Network, Inc., a WarnerMedia Company. All rights reserved.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

National News

The man accused of stabbing author Salman Rushdie in New York state has been indicted by a grand ju...
Nicki Brown, Jason Hanna and Holly Yan, CNN

Suspect in Salman Rushdie’s stabbing pleads not guilty to attempted murder, assault

The man accused of stabbing award-winning author Salman Rushdie and injuring another speaker on stage in New York state last week pleaded not guilty Thursday to charges of second-degree attempted murder and second-degree assault.
23 hours ago
phone screen displaying a list of received Scam Risk phone calls...
Brian Fung, CNN Business

A monumental case looks to crack open the world of auto-warranty robocalls

No sentence in the English language may be more infuriating than the following 12 words: "We have been trying to reach you about your car's extended warranty."
23 hours ago
PALM BEACH, FL - AUGUST 08: Supporters of former President Donald Trump rally near his home at Mar-...
Associated Press

Judge appears willing to unveil some of Mar-a-Lago affidavit

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Justice Department to put forward proposed redactions as he committed to making public at least part of the affidavit supporting the search warrant for former President Donald Trump's estate in Florida.
23 hours ago
Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter (L) and former First Lady Rosalynn Carter attend the 25th annive...
JAY REEVES, Associated Press

Rosalynn Carter marking 95th birthday with butterflies

Rosalynn Carter turns 95 Thursday, and her birthday is being marked with butterflies.
23 hours ago
In this photo provided by the National Park Service is the Abyss Pool hot spring in the southern pa...
Associated Press

Part of a foot, in a shoe, spotted in Yellowstone hot spring

Yellowstone National Park officials are investigating after an employee spotted part of a foot, in a shoe, floating in a hot spring in the southern part of the park.
23 hours ago
(National Weather Service)...

Areas of flash flooding likely in southern Utah, Southwest US through the weekend

The desert Southwest, an area dealing with long-term megadrought, is bracing for a moderate risk of extreme rainfall which could lead to flash flooding as we head into the weekend.
23 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

tips how to quit smoking...

7 Tips How to Quit Smoking | Quitting Smoking Might be One of the Hardest Things You Ever Do but Here’s Where You Can Start

Quitting smoking cigarettes can be incredibly difficult. Here are 7 tips how to quit smoking to help you on your quitting journey.
Photo: Storyblocks...
Blue Stakes of Utah 811

Blue Stakes of Utah 811: 5 Reasons To Call 811 Before You Dig When Working in Your Yard

Call before you dig. Even at home, you could end up with serious injuries or broken utilities just because you didn't call Blue Stakes of Utah 811.
Days of...
Days of '47 Rodeo

TRIVIA: How well do you know your rodeo? Take this quiz before you go to the Days of ’47!

The Utah Days of ’47 Rodeo presented by Zions Bank is a one-of-a-kind Gold Medal Rodeo being held July 20-23, 25 at 7:30 PM. The Days of ’47 Rodeo How well do you know your rodeo trivia? Take the quiz to test your know-all before heading out to the Days of ’47 Rodeo at the […]
cyber security through multi factor authentication setup...
Les Olson IT

How multi factor authentication setup helps companies stay safe

Multi factor authentication (MFA) setup is an important security measure that every company should implement for their workers. It’s also wise to install it for your personal and home accounts.
Lighting Design

Check out these stunning lamps with stained glass shades

Lamps with stained glass shades are statement pieces that are more than simply aesthetic. They also meet a functional requirement: to light up a room.
Address Bar of internet browser shows internet access...

Utah voters 50+ support increased access to Internet

The AARP surveyed Utah voters aged 50 plus about internet access and if they support the expansion of broadband, especially in rural areas currently lacking it.
University of Arizona will waive college tuition for Native students in the state