American Indian College Fund announces a five-year grant totaling more than $38 million to help increase the enrollment, retention, and career preparation of Native students at 25 tribal colleges and universities

“Culture at Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention”: A Customizable Program

Denver, Colo., Dec. 15, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Lilly Endowment Inc. approved a $38,775,000 grant to the American Indian College Fund (the College Fund) to support efforts that strengthen tribal colleges and universities and improve achievement education of American Indian and Alaska Native students.

The grant is funding “Culture at Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention,” a program that will be implemented over five years to increase enrollment, retention, and graduation rates for American Indian and Alaska Native students at 25 colleges and Tribal Universities (TCU). ) at the service of native communities.

The program will provide native-born students with the critical, culture-based skills and experiences they need to graduate and serve their communities in the fields of health care, environmental science, business, law, education, and more. The Lilly Endowment grant is the largest donation the College Fund has received in its 33-year history.

The College Fund’s mission is to provide American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) scholarship and TCU students, located on or near Indian reservations, with the financial and program support they need. Although the importance of scholarships for students has been well established, the College Fund has long understood that scholarships are not enough to create equitable access to higher education. The statistics tell the story: Today, 15.4 percent of AIAN people age 25 and older in the United States have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher, less than half the national average, according to the US Census Bureau. The USA.

“Culture at Heart: An Indigenous Approach to Enrollment and Retention” will enable the College Fund to create a comprehensive, integrated system of student and institutional support that is critical for AIAN students to consider, prepare for, enter, and graduate from University.

The foundation of the program is deeply rooted in tribal cultures and values ​​to strategically address the ways in which AIAN students attending TCUs experience admissions, enrollment, student support services, training, academic planning and professional development. By adopting this culture-based approach to enrollment and retention, participating TCUs can scale individual and systemic solutions for student success, while mapping their own processes, goals, and implementation plans according to cultures and tribal values ​​in the communities they serve. The project will strengthen the TCU system by implementing an enrollment management system that allows TCUs to share data and best practices and collaborate through a community of practice.

Founded in 1989 with partial seed funding from the Lilly Endowment, the College Fund began as an organization dedicated to raising funds for college scholarships for AIAN students and promoting national awareness of TCUs. Since then, the Lilly Endowment has awarded several grants to the College Fund to support the capital needs of TCUs and a variety of leadership and capacity building initiatives.

“The American Indian College Fund is a major supporter and advocate for tens of thousands of AIAN students across the country, many of whom attend TCU,” said Ted Maple, Lilly Endowment vice president of education. “We hope this College Fund grant will enable TCUs to help more AIAN students thrive, build meaningful careers, and become leaders in their communities.”

Cheryl Crazy Bull, President and CEO of the American Indian College Fund, said, “Tribal colleges and universities provide an education that is intertwined with tribal knowledge and the cultures of students and the communities they serve. The Lilly Endowment supports transformational community-based work and, as a longtime partner of tribal higher education, recognizes the alignment of their mission with ours. We are deeply grateful.”


Lilly Endowment Inc. is an Indianapolis-based private philanthropic foundation created in 1937 by JK Lilly and his sons, Eli and JK Jr., through gifts of stock in their pharmaceutical business, Eli Lilly and Company. While those gifts remain the financial foundation of the Endowment Fund, the Endowment Fund is a separate entity from the company, with a separate board of directors, staff, and location. In accordance with the wishes of its founders, the Foundation supports the causes of community development, education, and religion. Although the Endowment funds programs throughout the United States, it maintains a special commitment to its hometown, Indianapolis, and its home state, Indiana.

About the American Indian College Fund—The American Indian College Fund has been the nation’s largest charity supporting Native American higher education for 33 years. The College Fund believes “education is the answer” and provided $14.45 million in scholarships and other direct student support to American Indian and Alaska Native students in 2021-22. Since its founding in 1989, the College Fund has provided more than $284 million in scholarships. The College Fund also supports a variety of academic and support programs at the nation’s 35 accredited tribal colleges and universities, which are located in or near the indigenous reservations, ensuring students have the tools to graduate and succeed in their careers. The College Fund consistently receives top marks from independent charity evaluators and is one of the nation’s top 100 charities named to the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance. For more information about the American Indian College Fund, visit www.collegefund .org.

Journalists: The American Indian College Fund does not use the acronym AICF. In the second reference, use the University Fund.

CONTACT: Dina Horwedel American Indian College Fund 303-430-5350 [email protected]