ONAMIA- Findings from a higher education needs assessment survey conducted among households on the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation in July 2008 indicated that band members overwhelmingly call for the creation of a band tribal college.
"Of the 237 individuals sampled in a total population household survey, less than 1 percent disapproved of the need for our own college," Joycelyn Shingobe, commissioner of education, said in a news release. Shingobe has led an effort to explore planning for the fourth tribal college in the state.
"For years the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe has expended significant sums of money in contracts with regional colleges and universities to deliver university-level education courses to our band members on our reservation," Shingobe said. "While we have had some success in increasing numbers of band members with higher education degrees, it now appears that the band wants us to exercise our sovereign authority to start our own degree granting institution."
Respondents from 235 Band households voiced their desire to open a tribal college on Mille Lacs reservation lands so that young and old can acquire higher education training "opportunities close to home," according to survey results.
Colleges offering associates, bachelors, and master's degrees are operated by 35 American Indian tribes throughout the United States. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and U.S. Department of Education provide primary financial support for tribal colleges through grants and financial aid revenue.
Respondents from 231 Band households voiced their desire to open a tribal college on Mille Lacs reservation lands so that Ojibwe Indians can acquire higher education training "with ITV distance learningfrom all reservation districts [and] can participate equally in degree programs," according to survey results.
Respondent band members expressed interest in receiving training and degrees in 26 professions and career areas. Respondents expressed most interest in the following degree areas: Construction Trades (137), American Indian Studies (132), Computer Information Systems (127), Gaming Services (114), Natural Resources (109), Criminal Justice (109), and Business Entrepreneurship (108).
The Mille Lacs Band must now consider whether to notify the Higher Learning Commission in Chicago of its intent to undertake the college accreditation process that is necessary to start a college.
"Accreditation is a multi-year process and requires the Band to actually offer our courses and degree programs while we are moving through the system," Shingobe said.
A national study undertaken in 2000 by the Institute for Higher Education Policy identified numbers of ways that tribal colleges boosted regional economies including increases to workforce development, business attraction, technology transfer, direct spending, employment, and communication linkages.
"The Mille Lacs Band sees the potential that our own tribal college has for our citizens and we're looking for ways to deliver university courses and classes right into our remote District villages," said Shingobe. "Dozens of Indian tribes have harnessed satellite technology and Internet resources to deliver instruction to their most isolated communitiesthis is not rocket scienceit might take some time for us to reach out to all of our band members, but I know we can do it."
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.