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Support outlined for tribal college career and technical education
04 April 2012

BISMARCK (UTN) - United Tribes Technical College President David M. Gipp sees the need for more support for career and technical education in Indian Country. Gipp testified March 29 in Washington, DC about next year's funding for the U. S. Department of Education.

      Speaking before the U. S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Gipp emphasized the need for more adequate support for tribal colleges in the Carl Perkins and Higher Education Acts, and Pell Grant funding.

      He reminded the committee that tribally-chartered colleges are not part of state educational systems and do not receive state-appropriated general operational funds for Indian students.

      Gipp recommended $10 million in base funding under Section 117 of the Carl Perkins Act for tribally controlled Postsecondary Career and Technical Institutions program (20 U.S.C. Section 2327). The funding is awarded competitively and distributed through a formula. The recommended level is $1.8 million above the FY 2012 level and the President's request.

      "Perkins funds are central to the viability of our core postsecondary educational programs," said Gipp in his testimony. "Very little of the other funds we receive may be used for core career and technical education programs. Those are often competitive, one-time supplemental funds that help provide services students need to be successful."

      The base level of support provided by Perkins funding makes up about 46 percent of the United Tribes core operating budget.

      Gipp said United Tribes would use its share to maintain 100 year-old education buildings and 50 year-old student housing, upgrade technology, and fund program and curriculum improvements. He said it would also be used to provide adequate salaries for faculty and staff who have not received salary adjustments this year and who's salaries are in the bottom quartile of comparable positions.

      "These funds supplement and do not duplicate Bureau of Indian Education funding," he said. "It takes both sources to maintain the institution at a frugal level. And even combined, they fail to provide the resources necessary to adequately operate and maintain the college."

      Gipp endorsed a $30 million request by the Obama Administration and the American Indian Higher Education Consortium for Title III-A (Section 316) of the Higher Education Act's "Strengthening Institutions Program." The request is $5 million above the current fiscal year appropriation for the nation's 33 tribal colleges and universities.

      Gipp said Title III allows for facility construction and maintenance, which would address an urgent need for housing at United Tribes.

      "We are constantly in need of additional student housing," he said. "We would like to educate more students but lack the housing. We urgently need housing for up to 150 students, many of whom have families."

      UTTC's current, unduplicated count is about 1,200 students annually. Over 400 children of college students are on the campus in pre-school and a K to 8 elementary school.

      Gipp also recommended that Congress maintain the Pell Grant program at the $5,635 maximum award level. He said 76 percent of UTTC students rely on Pell Grants.

      Gipp's remarks represented the wishes of the United Tribes of North Dakota Board of Directors. The board is made up of leaders of the state's tribal nations: Three Affiliated Tribes of the Mandan/Hidatsa/Arikara Nation, Sisseton/Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake Tribe, Standing Rock Tribe, and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.

      Joining Gipp and also providing testimony was Laramie Plainfeather (Crow Agency, MT) vice President of the United Tribes Student Senate. A business major, Plainfeather expressed a student's point-of-view about the challenges and successes faced by those attending tribal colleges and universities.

      The committee hearing was chaired by Congressman Denny Rehberg, a rancher from Montana, who thanked Plainfeather for his testimony and mentioned that he grew up near Plainfeather's hometown Crow Agency, MT.

      Gipp and Plainfeather were the only tribal college representatives among 20 public witnesses from colleges, universities, research institutions and hospitals around the nation providing testimony to the committee.


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