Tribal college and university (TCU) presidents from throughout the nation met last week to examine the important role of information in addressing student enrollment, retention, and achievement in their institutions serving Native American students.
To meet their objective of continuing to improve Native students’ results and better share the story of how American Indian Tribal higher education is changing their pupils’ lives, the TCU presidents explored using data intellect as a tool and their role as leaders and leadership in their institutions.
“When we encourage our Tribal Colleges and Universities, we encourage the pupils they serve.”
During his session, Renick discussed how GSU increased graduations rates by 22 percent and shut all achievement gaps. He accentuated the value of information and evaluation and outlined several practical and low-cost measures that tribal schools can take to enhance outcomes for their pupils.
The presidents cited facing several of the same problems as GSU and continued the conversation with panel discussions and guided discussions led by Carrie Billy, President, and CEO of AIHEC. Throughout the sessions, the TCU presidents of Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona; Salish Kootenai College in Pablo, Montana; and Oglala Lakota College in Kyle, South Dakota, discussed how to place GSU’s strategies into actions and what measures their associations are choosing to improve American Indian higher education.
“We will need to pool our resources and discuss and compare the results,” explained Billy. “With that information, we can always move forward and create a better learning community.”
On the last day of the TCU Presidents convening, the sessions focused on student achievement. Through the day ETS researchers and higher education specialists shared strategies and tools and answered questions to pave the way to Japanese pupil success.
“TCUs are important contributors to the achievement of Native American students, and they’re well-positioned to generate an even larger impact in improving degree attainment and career outcomes by implementing data-informed and innovative solutions,” stated Dr. Lorenzo L. Esters, Strada Education Network vice president, philanthropy. During Strada Education’s partnership with Gallup, over 2,500 U.S. adults whose highest degree earned was the associate level were surveyed to evaluate their general well-being after faculty based on five components — purpose, societal, community, physical and fiscal well-being.
Dhanfu Elston, vice president of strategy, directed pathways, and Purpose First at Total College America, started the day by stressing the importance of guided pathways for students and much more emphasis on livelihood outcomes. Elston clarified that TCUs must lead students on the right route, including ensuring that students take at least 30 credit hours annually and advising students on choosing majors to avoid poor decisions.
Academic advisors also play a definitive role in student achievement. The student-to-faculty ratio can make it difficult for academic advisors to make a difference, but Elston stressed that TCUs can elevate that place to a more important purpose of career advisor.
ETS Senior Assessment Strategist Dr. Ross Markle clarified the importance of understanding the challenges and strengths that students bring to school. Noncognitive skills like study skills, motivation, self-management and social connections can offer a stepping stone to address the plans tribal students will need to succeed.
Markle explained that TCUs need to have the ability to identify risks for tribal students and alter their service programs accordingly so their students can complete their degrees. ETS’ SuccessNavigator® evaluation — designed to assist schools to reach at-risk incoming students and enhance retention and completion rates — can help to identify and measure these variables. The evaluation is currently being analyzed at Fond du Lac Tribal Community College in Cloquet, Minnesota; Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Nebraska Indian Community College at Macy, Nebraska.
“Let’s not just examine the data we’ve based on retention rates and graduation rates,” said Charles M. Roessell, President of Diné College. “Let us look at the data of those students before they come to us and find a way to align ourselves with that.”
Lui emphasized the importance of telling tales and encouraged the TCUs to do anything it takes to receive their stories to the general public.
Despite decreasing TCU enrollments and negativity surrounding bookings, the tribal presidents always strive to enhance Native American pupils’ education and share their stories.
“It makes all of the trials and tribulations we go through as presidents worthwhile.”