University of California Will Pay All College Costs for Native Americans in the State

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The University of California system announced it will cover all tuition and other costs for Native Americans who are members of federally recognized tribes.

U.C. system President Michael Drake made the announcement in a letter to chancellors about the “U.C. Native American Opportunity Plan,” which will “advance critical efforts to expand student diversity and make the University of California more affordable and accessible for California’s Native American undergraduate and graduate students.”

Drake considers this move a form of reparations.

“The University of California is committed to recognizing and acknowledging historical wrongs endured by Native Americans,” Drake wrote.

In-state tuition at U.C. colleges is around $15,000 a year for tuition and fees, and almost $18,000 for on-campus housing.

But the San Francisco Chronicle reported the giveaway comes up short:

In California, there are 55 tribes that aren’t federally recognized, affecting around 80,000 people — the largest group of unrecognized tribal groups and individuals of any state in the country, according to the UCLA American Indian Studies Center. These groups are unrecognized because of treaties and policy decisions made in the 19th century as well as the 1950s and ’60s.

That means Californians in these tribes would not have access to funds from the UC Native American Opportunity Plan. A U.C. spokesperson said that the system’s ability to extend the program beyond federally recognized groups was limited by legal constraints on affirmative action programs imposed by Proposition 209, passed by California voters in 1996.

But the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria will make up for the difference with a $2.5 million scholarship fund, which will cover tuition and mandatory fees both for non-federally recognized California Native American UC students as well as any added needed support for those from federally recognized tribes, the group will announce Wednesday.

“California Native American students now have a clear path to the nation’s top public education system with no financial roadblocks,” Greg Sarris, the group’s tribal chairman said. “Inclusivity is our responsibility and we’re pleased to extend scholarships to California Native Americans from non-federally recognized tribes. We’re helping to level the playing field and provide representation in higher education for all California Native American students.”

The Chronicle reported that in 2021 Native Americans made up 2.9 percent of the U.S. population and .05 percent of the U.C. student population.

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