AIGC Karen Lee Bronwyn Bitsilly Ashley Krueger
American Indian Graduate Center
Pictured, from left, are AIGC Scholars Karen Lee, Bronwyn Bitsilly, and Ashley Krueger.

American Indian Graduate Center Now Focuses on All Levels of Higher Education

Stephine Poston

The higher education industry is booming. According to the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, enrollment projections in post-secondary, degree-granting institutions is expected to increase 15 percent from 2010 to 2021. Despite an extended period of growth among U.S. colleges and universities, the hurdle of paying for higher education persists.

The National Center for Education Statistics found that between 2002–2003 and 2012–2013, prices for undergraduate tuition, room, and board at public institutions rose 39 percent, and prices at private non-profit institutions rose 27 percent, after adjustment for inflation.

That’s where the American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) comes in. AIGC works to build, promote, and honor self-sustaining American Indian and Alaska Native communities through education and leadership. Historically, the organization provided scholarships and fellowships to American Indian and Alaska Native graduate students, but in recent years has expanded its scholarships and services to include undergraduate and vocational programs.

AIGC supports any field of study at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Nineteen percent of undergraduate recipients are in the Business fields, which include International Business, Business Administration, Accounting, Economics and Finance. Seventeen percent of undergraduate recipients are in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.

Twenty-five percent of graduate recipients are in health fields, which include all medical degrees and public health. Eleven percent of graduate recipients are in the education fields, which include masters and doctoral degrees in Education Leadership and Administration.

Joan Currier, the organization’s Chief Operating Officer, describes the organizations’ work as straightforward and holistic. “The idea is simply to provide scholarships for Native students, and provide advisement and resources to our students to help them to be successful. We will fund over 800 students per year. Our main goal is to fund students in higher education, and to support them through degree completion,” Currier said. “We work with students throughout the country who are pursuing degrees in all fields of study. I think we probably surpass any other organizations by the breadth of students that we are able to help.”

Jamie Lea Frederick, an AIGC scholarship recipient, graduated from the University of South Dakota. (American Indian Graduate Center)

AIGC, which operates as a national private 501(c)(3) non-profit based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has disbursed some 17,000 undergraduate and graduate fellowships totaling over $55 million since established in 1969.

If you consider the impact of just one American Indian or Alaska Native student reaching graduation because of the financial support offered through AIGC, the impact of the organization’s collective efforts are an educational game-changer in Indian country.

AIGC manages a number of scholarship programs—some specialized in various fields of study and others more general—through partnerships with private industry and public agencies. The breadth and pedigree of organizations involved with AIGC is a testament to AIGC’s efficacy in reaching American Indian and Alaska Native students at all levels of education.

REDW, New Mexico’s largest locally-owned certified public accounting and business consulting firm, in 2015 created the “REDW Native American Scholarship in Accounting.” The scholarship program provides financial assistance to undergraduate and graduate American Indian and Alaska Native full-time students seeking an accounting degree. We recently had 64 applications for this inaugural scholarship.

The “Wells Fargo American Indian Scholarship” is an undergraduate scholarship available to enrolled members of federally recognized tribes pursuing a career or degree in fields related to banking, resort management, gaming operations, and management and administration. This academic year there were 178 scholarship applications.

The U.S. Department of Interior also entrusted AIGC with administering the $60 million Cobell Scholarship Fund. The fund was established to defray the cost of attendance at both post-secondary vocational schools and institutions of higher education, including graduate and professional schools. There were 3,441 applications and 294 scholarships awarded; 2 vocational certificates, 256 undergraduate and 36 graduate students.

Flintco, a century-old commercial construction company with offices in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Memphis, worked with AIGC to establish a scholarship specific to students interested in a career in construction management. The partnership between AIGC and Flintco began in 2015.

The list of partnerships forged by AIGC includes tribal donors like the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians and Wells Fargo Bank, as well as a long-list of individual, personal donors. Many of them are AIGC alumni

“AIGC has never veered from its purpose to support education and leadership in Indian country, and as a result we’ve grown fellowships specific to public health, nursing, library science, fine arts, journalism, medicine, dentistry, finance, construction, business, and accounting, to supplement the funds that are available to students in all fields of study,” Currier said. “We’ve adapted how we make connections and identify new scholarship programs for American Indian and Alaska Native students. We want every student to have the opportunity to enter a higher education program and complete that program. AIGC makes that possible.”

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