Bennet, Udall Keep Up Push to Help Reimburse Fort Lewis College for Native American Tuition

Washington, DC – Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Mark Udall today reintroduced a bill to help Fort Lewis College cover tuition costs of Native Americans students, who get federally-mandated free tuition at the college. 

Due to a 1910 federal mandate as part of the original land grant, Fort Lewis College in Durango is required to provide a tuition-free education to all qualifying Native American students.  The Bennet-Udall bill will require the federal government to help cover those costs.  

“This is an important program for Native American students who otherwise would struggle to afford higher education, which is quickly becoming a prerequisite for success in this tough economy,” said Bennet.  “But we need to ensure that Colorado is not strapped with all of the responsibility of reimbursing these federally mandated tuition costs.”

"At a time when getting a college degree is more important than ever, this common-sense and fair proposal is critical – for Coloradans, Fort Lewis College and the Native American students who attend,” Udall said.  “Coloradans shouldn’t shoulder the responsibility for out-of-state students alone.  Our bill would update the law and ensure Native American students can continue to get an affordable, quality education at Fort Lewis College."

The burden of the payments on the state of Colorado has increased exponentially over the years, especially as an increasing number of out-of-state Native American students attend the college.  In 2010, Fort Lewis College had 786 Native American students, from 34 different states and 124 tribal governments.  Recently, Fort Lewis College has faced the threat of significant funding cuts from the state of Colorado that could affect the stability of this essential program. 

In 2009, Colorado paid about $10 million in tuition reimbursement for Native American students from 30 different states.  This bill will ensure that the federal government will start to pay its fair share for this vital program to ensure its long term survival for both Fort Lewis College and its Native American students

Last year, Bennet and Udall introduced this bill, and Rep. John Salazar introduced companion legislation in the House.