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American Indian tnibally controlled colleges were created to provide higher education in a familiar cultural setting to a population that is severely underrepresented in American higher education. Since little is known regarding student development at tribal colleges, the purpose of this study was to assess retention, talent development, satisfaction, racial discrimination, and cultural knowledge/identity at tribal colleges using American Indians who attended non-Indian institutions as a comparison sample. In early 1999, survey data were collected from students who entered fourteen tribal colleges and two Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) colleges and from American Indian students who entered non-Indian. institutions in 1993 (n = 496).

Results indicate that the American. Indian populations enrolling at tribal/BIA colleges and non-Indian colleges are very different in a number of important respects. Although tribal college student bodies differ from each other on tribally linked variables (blood quantum, being raised on a reservation, speaking a Native language, and tribal membership), they are remarkably similar on variables considered to be traditional predictors of retention (income, parental education, and degree aspirations). The fact that tribal and BIA college students, compared to American Indians who attend non-Indian institutions. score much higher on tribally linked variables and much lower on traditional predictors of retention suggests that these colleges can indeed be regarded as a unique “system” of institutions.

The multivariate analyses investigated the influence of institutional type (tribal, BIA, low selectivity non-Indian, and high selectivity non-Indian) on the following outcomes: retention (AA/Vocational, bachelor’s degree), talent development, satisfaction with the college experience, experiencing racial discrimination (from students and faculty), and cultural knowledge/identity. Attending a BIA college slightly reduces the student's chances of completing a bachelor’s degree, while attending a tribal college slightly reduces a student's self reported growth in cognitive development. Otherwise, most of the outcome differences between tribal/BIA and non-Indian institutions can be attributed to the differential input characteristics of their students.


© 200 by Ann Marie Machamer

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