University of Arizona to Waive Tuition for Native American Students

Arizona is the latest state with a tuition waiver program for Native American students, following California just a few months earlier.
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  • The tuition waiver program only applies to those attending the university's main campus.
  • Students must come from a Native American tribe in Arizona.
  • The state has 22 federally recognized Native American tribes.

Native Americans in Arizona will soon have a more affordable path to a college degree.

The University of Arizona announced that it will soon cover tuition and mandatory fees for students from one of the state's 22 federally recognized Native American tribes. The Arizona Native Scholars Grant will begin this fall semester for full-time students pursuing an undergraduate degree from the school's main campus in Tucson.

More than 400 students enrolled at the university last year met the criteria for this new program, according to the institution.

"The University of Arizona is committed to recognizing and acknowledging the history endured by Native American communities," Kasey Urquídez, the university's vice president of enrollment management and dean of undergraduate admissions, said in a statement. "We are committed to promoting access and success for Indigenous students. This program is part of our continual commitment to serve our Indigenous Wildcats."

Students must fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to qualify for the Arizona Native Scholars Grant. They must provide their tribal identification during the process so the university can deem them eligible.

The University of Arizona isn't the first school or system to extend free tuition to Native American students.

The University of California (UC) system, which includes 10 universities throughout the state, revealed in May that it will also begin waiving tuition for these students starting this fall semester. Unlike the University of Arizona's program, UC's tuition waiver also extends to graduate students.

Urquídez said the university may eventually expand the program to include graduate students, University of Arizona Online students, and students at other campuses. The university will look to gain more donor support to help fund the program, she said.

Arizona's grant program comes after other recent investments in the school's Native American students. The university spotlighted its Indigenous Resilience Center, established in September, as one of its more recent investments in these students and the surrounding Native American communities. The center aims to address environmental concerns among tribal nations in the U.S.

"These initiatives aren't checkmarks; they represent the University of Arizona's commitment and continued drive to be the leading institution serving Native Americans," Levi Esquerra, the university's senior vice president for Native American advancement and tribal engagement, said in a statement.

Tribal leaders in the state applauded the Arizona Native Scholars Grant. According to a report from the Arizona Mirror, representatives from the Tohono O'odham Nation, Gila River Indian Community, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, and Navajo Nation all spoke in support of the program.

"It not only opens doors for Native Americans to pursue higher education, but it will also add to the cultural and academic diversity of the university," Navajo Nation President Jonathan Nez said. "We have many bright and intelligent Navajo people who are eager to earn a degree but often lack the financial resources to do so."