WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), along with U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mon.), Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), recently reintroduced the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act, legislation that would give Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) greater input over federal funding discussions that impact them.

“For too long, Tribal Colleges and Universities have been left out of the conversation when it comes to federal education resources. Our bipartisan bill will ensure that the Departments of Education and Interior hear directly from TCU leaders about their challenges and funding needs. I’m glad to see the strong, bipartisan support for this legislation, and I’m committed to working with my colleagues to get this across the finish line,”
 said Senator Fischer.

“Too often, politicians in Washington make decisions for our communities without any input from folks on the ground. That’s why I’m working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make sure Montana’s Tribal Colleges and Universities have a seat at the table when it comes to funding decisions that impact them. I’m proud to support the Treasure State’s top-notch TCUs so that they can continue shaping our future leaders for generations to come,” said Senator Tester.

“Leaders of Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) know the needs of their organizations, faculty and students better than anyone else. This commonsense legislation will enable TCUs to have a voice for how to meet those needs, and it will improve the effectiveness of federal resources. The inclusion of TCU partners will help support the work of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education as well. I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to pass this bipartisan legislation, which will have a positive impact on the growth of TCUs for years to come,” said Senator Rounds.

“The nation’s 35 accredited Tribal Colleges and Universities applaud Senator Fischer’s leadership in ensuring that TCUs have a voice and presence on NACIE. Tribal Colleges create pathways for American Indians and Alaskan Natives to build strong communities, achieve social and economic mobility, retain our Native languages, and more, yet they have not had a seat on NACIE for years. Through Senator Fischer’s bill, that oversight is sure to be corrected for the benefit of all,”
said Carrie Billy, President and CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium.

“The Strengthening NACIE Act is an important step toward fulfilling the federal trust responsibility to Native students. The role of Tribal Advisory Committees in each federal agency is critical to uplifting the Nation-to-Nation relationship. It is time NACIE’s role in the Departments of Education and Interior is empowered and solidified. NIEA applauds Senator Fischer and looks forward to working together to best serve students from cradle to college,” said Diana Cournoyer, Executive Director of the National Indian Education Association.

“A Tribal College or University (TCU) President has an in-depth knowledge and expertise of the needs of TCUs and having him/her give a voice to the budget needs will significantly assist the Department of Education and Department of Interior make informed decisions that can help and grow the TCUs,”
said Manoj Patil, President of Little Priest Tribal College.

“This bill will help to give the Tribal Colleges a voice. The inclusion of a Tribal College President on the NACIE board strengthens the voice of the group. The addition of the Tribal Colleges adds the currently missing sector of Native American Higher Education to the board. Further, the requirement of the bill that the DOE and DOI fully consider the report of the NACIE board during budget development is also monumental. At this point in time, there is no clear way for the voice of the Tribal Colleges to be heard during consultation processes as they are focused on Tribes and elected Tribal leaders. The inclusion of a TCU President on the NACIE Board not only allows the TCUs to strengthen the deliberations of the board, but also allows the TCUs to be heard during the Federal budget development process,” said Dr. Michael Oltrogge, President of Nebraska Indian Community College.


The Department of Education’s Tribal advisory group, the National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE), advises the Secretaries of Education and Interior on programs serving Tribes and their members. NACIE releases an annual report, but the Department of Education does not have a process for considering NACIE’s report when developing its budget request.

Additionally, Department of Education tribal consultation sessions often do not provide the opportunity for TCU leaders to provide direct input.

The National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act would address these challenges by:

  • Requiring at least one of NACIE’s members be the president of a Tribal College or University
  • Requiring the Secretaries of Education and Interior to consider NACIE’s annual report when preparing their budgets each year

Text of the National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act can be found here.

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