TRIBAL Colleges: Educating, Engaging, Innovating, Sustaining, Honoring

official AIHEC logo
In 1973, the first six American Indian tribally controlled colleges established the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) to provide a support network as they worked to influence federal policies on American Indian higher education. Today, AIHEC has grown to 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) in the United States. Each of these institutions was created and chartered by its own tribal government or the federal government for a specific purpose: to provide higher education opportunities to American Indians through programs that are locally and culturally based, holistic, and supportive.

Through AIHEC, our colleges continue to work together to influence policy and build programs in all facets of higher education. They receive technical assistance in key areas; network with one another, federal agencies, other institutions, and potential partners; mentor new institutions; and plan new initiatives to address evolving areas of need.

AIHEC provides leadership and influences public policy on American Indian and Alaska Native higher education issues through advocacy, research, and programmatic initiatives; promotes and strengthens Indigenous languages, cultures, communities, lands, and tribal nations; and through its unique position, serves member institutions and developing TCUs.

AIHEC activities are supported by member dues, grants and contracts. AIHEC is a 501(c)(3) organization governed by a board of directors, which is composed of the presidents of the accredited United States-based TCUs. The board elects from its membership an executive committee to oversee the activities of the collective body and the AIHEC staff.

Milestones of the AIHEC Vision: Sovereign Nations through Excellence in TRIBAL Higher Education

A Timeline of the Tribal College Movement and AIHEC

1650 Harvard University's charter calls for the "education of English and Indian youth"
1871 U.S. declares an end to negotiating new Indian treaties, after approximately 400 pacts (many of which promised schools and health services in exchange for tribal land)
1879 The first non-reservation Indian boarding school is founded as Carlisle Indian Industrial School
1884 The United States Indian Industrial Training School is established in Lawrence, KS providing a semi-military style boarding school education for Indians; three years later the institution was renamed Haskell Institute
1921 Congress passes the Snyder Act, authorizing federal funding for the benefit, care, and assistance of the Indians throughout the U.S., including education
1928 Meriam Report released detailing the poor quality of education and health services provided to Indians
1968 First tribal college is established: Navajo Community College (renamed Diné College in 1997)
1969 Kennedy Report—Indian Education: A National Tragedy, A National Challenge—recommends greater tribal control over education
1973 American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC) is founded by six tribal colleges
1975 President Nixon signs the Indian Self-Determination Act (P.L. 93-638) giving tribal governments more authority over education, health, and social services
1978 President Carter signs the Tribally Controlled Community Colleges Assistance Act (Tribal College Act) to provide federal institutional operating funds to eligible institutions
1981 Congress funds the Tribal College Act at $2,831 per Indian student for TCU operating budgets
1981 First annual AIHEC Student Conference is held in Rapid City, SD
1986 The AIHEC Student Congress, a national coordinating voice for TCU student leadership, is established
1989 Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching report deems tribal colleges "underfunded miracles" and illustrates how TCUs are "shaping the future of Native America"
1989 AIHEC, with Paul Boyer, launches the Tribal College Journal—the TCUs' quarterly publication on Tribal higher education—with funding from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
1989 AIHEC creates the American Indian College Fund (AICF) to provide scholarships for TCU students
1993 As AIHEC marks its 20th anniversary, it has 27 member institutions
1994 Twenty-six TCUs received recognition as federal land-grant institutions (1994 Land-Grant Institutions) through passage of the Equity in Educational Land-grant Status Act of 1994
1996 Congress eliminates dedicated funding for all Tribal/TCU Adult Basic Education programs
1996 President Clinton issues an Executive Order creating a White House Initiative on Tribal Colleges and Universities (WHITCU), directing federal agencies to recognize and engage with the TCUs
1996 W.K. Kellogg Foundation launches $22M Native American higher education initiative focused on Tribal Colleges
1997 Second Carnegie Report, "Native American Colleges: Progress & Prospects," is published
1998 New competitive Title III program is established specifically for TCUs in HEA reauthorization
1999 TCU-Head Start Partnership program is established in DHHS
1999 AIHEC, Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities (HACU), and National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO) establish the Alliance for Equity in Higher Education (Alliance)
1999 AIHEC and the Institute for Higher Education Policy release the first of a series of illuminating reports on the TCUs
2000 President Clinton proposes/Congress funds the American Indian Teacher Corps and American Indian Administrator Corps grants' programs
2001 New federal initiatives for TCUs are established in USDA, HUD, DoD, Department of Education, National Science Foundation, and NASA
2002 President George W. Bush signs a new Executive Order continuing WHITCU
2002 Farm Security and Rural Investment Act is enacted reauthorization all 1994 Land-Grant programs and White Earth Tribal & Community College is added to the list 1994 Land-grant Institutions
2002 The World Indigenous Nations Higher Education Consortium (WINHEC) is established by AIHEC (TCUs), the Wänanga of Aotearoa (New Zealand), and Saamiland University (Norway)
2002 Bipartisan Task Force on Tribal Colleges and Universities established in the U.S. Senate
2002 The Alliance, with a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, launches the Kellogg MSI (Minority Serving Institutions) Leadership Fellows program to identify and mentor the next generation of MSI presidents
2003 AIHEC Athletic Commission is established
2004 Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College and Tohono O'odham Community College are added to the list of 1994 Institutions through enactment P.L. 108-204 and P.L. 108-447, respectively
2004 With funding from Lumina Foundation for Education, AIHEC launches AIHEC AIMS—American Indian Measures of Success—a new and unique TCU data collection initiative
2006 AIHEC adopts a new multiyear strategic plan focusing on sustainability, performance accountability, student engagement and strengthening communities
2007 Congress enacts the College Cost Reduction and Access Act (CCRAA), including an additional $60M over two years, for TCU Title III programs
2008 AIHEC succeeds in securing a formula funded TCU-Title III program in HEA reauthorization
2008 Diné College marks its 40th anniversary
2008 AIHEC is successful in securing an increased authorization for the per-Indian student to $8,000, adjusted annually for inflation
2008 Ilisagvik College is added to the list of 1994 Land-Grant Institutions through the enactment of the Food, Conservation, and Energy Act (P.L.110-234
2009 AIHEC publishes Indigenous Evaluation Framework, Telling Our Story in Our Place and Time—a first of its kind workbook
2009 President Obama donates partial proceeds from his Nobel Peace Prize to AICF for TCU student scholarships
2009 AIHEC is successful in securing $50M in President Obama's first Budget to transition Tribal College Act grants to forward funding
2009 AIHEC publishes first AIHEC-AIMS Fact Book of annually collected data covering more than 110 indicators
2010 Mandatory funding first awarded under CCRAA is extended for TCUs under the Student Aid and Financial Responsibility Act (SAFRA) for an additional 10 years at $30M/year ($300M total)
2010 Alliance member organizations receive a $3M grant from the Walmart Foundation to increase student success rates at MSIs
2011 AIHEC successful in securing authorization for the NSF-TCU program in American COMPETES Act (PL 111-358)
2011 President Obama eliminates WHITCU and instead issues an all-encompassing executive order on improving Indian Education that includes TCUs
2011 The AIHEC Tribal College Journal goes digital, giving readers complete online access to every issue of the publication and further expanding networks between TCUs
2012 AIHEC launches "Restoring the Circle: Ending Violence and Abuse on TCU Campuses," a nationwide campaign to proactively address sexual assault and dating violence on college campuses
2013 AIHEC marks its 40th anniversary
2014 Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College and College of the Muscogee Nation are added as 1994 Land-grant Institutions
2014 20th anniversary of the 1994 Land-grant programs
2014 25th anniversary of the Tribal College Journal
2014 25th anniversary of the American Indian College Fund