Undergraduate students from the state’s 22 federally recognized Native American tribes will no longer have to pay tuition and mandatory fees at the University of Arizona main campus in Tucson.

Beginning in the fall, new and continuing full-time, degree-seeking undergraduates will be eligible for the Arizona Native Scholars Grant, the first program of its kind in Arizona. The program, funded through a reallocation of financial aid dollars, will be administered by UArizona Enrollment Management.

“Serving Arizona’s Native American tribes and tribal students is a crucial part of the University of Arizona’s land-grant mission, and the Arizona Native Scholars Grant program is another important step among many to do that,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. “I am so proud that that this university has found a way to help hundreds of students more easily access and complete a college education, and I look forward to finding ways to take these efforts even further.”

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To be eligible, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, and provide tribal identification. Native American tribes’ federal legal status allows universities to administer scholarships and grants to tribal members.

More than 400 students enrolled at UArizona last year meet the criteria for the new program.

Serving Arizona’s Native American tribes and students is a key part of the university’s strategic plan, and is central to the plan’s Arizona Advantage pillar, which highlights the university’s role as a land-grant institution. Tucson is home to the Tohono O’odham Nation and Pascua Yaqui Tribe.

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

The new grant is part of a host of university programs and partnerships with Native American communities and students, particularly those in Arizona. In the fall, a survey by the National Science Foundation showed that UArizona is the top doctorate-granting institution for American Indian or Alaska Native students.

The university’s Indigenous Resilience Center, established in September in the Arizona Institute for Resilient Environments and Societies, works directly with tribal nations to address environmental challenges in ways that respect Native and Indigenous sovereignty and knowledge.

Several programs in the College of Education, including the Indigenous Teacher Education Program and Native SOAR, offer training and support for K-12 teachers in Arizona, especially those who serve Indigenous communities.

During the 2020-21 academic year, the James E. Rogers College of Law was among the top three U.S. law schools with the highest number of Native American students pursuing a Juris Doctor, according to the latest data from the American Bar Association. The college is home to the Indigenous Peoples Law and Policy Program, which is renowned for its scholarship on American Indian and Indigenous peoples law, policy and human rights.

“These initiatives aren’t checkmarks; they represent the University of Arizona’s commitment and continued drive to be the leading institution serving Native Americans,” said Levi Esquerra, UArizona senior vice president for Native American advancement and tribal engagement. “This is a very exciting time, and we’re going to continue our work with tribes to make great things happen.”

In the future, Urquídez said, the program may expand to graduate students, University of Arizona Online students and students at other UArizona campuses. The university will also look to potential donor support to help fund the program.

More details about the Arizona Native Scholars Grant, including how to apply, will be available on the Scholarships and Financial Aid website, along with information about other programs that serve Indigenous students.