Mission and Policy

AIHEC is the collective spirit and unifying voice of our nation’s Tribal Colleges and Universities. AIHEC provides leadership and influences public policy on American Indian higher education issues through advocacy, research, and program initiatives; promotes and strengthens Indigenous languages, cultures, communities and tribal nations; and through its unique position, serves member institutions and emerging Tribal Colleges and Universities.

AIHEC works to sustain and increase funding for its member institutions funded under the Tribally Controlled Colleges and Universities Assistance Act of 1978 and other relevant legislation and to identify new sources of funding throughout the federal government to advance the collective mission of its member institutions.

Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) are young, geographically isolated, and the most poorly funded institutions of higher education in the nation. Other than the U.S. Military Academies, and Howard and Gallaudet Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities are the only other institutions of higher education that depend on the federal government for their basic institutional operating funds. Despite their strong support for the colleges they have chartered, tribal governments are only able to provide modest financial support. The tribes that charter their local tribal colleges are not the handful of small and wealthy gaming tribes located near major urban areas that are prevalent in the mainstream media; rather, they are some of the poorest governments in the nation.

It is an underlying goal of all TCUs to improve the lives of students through higher education and to move American Indians toward self-sufficiency. This goal is fundamental because of the extreme poverty in which most American Indians live. In fact, three of the five poorest counties in America are home to TCUs, where unemployment rates are consistently well above 60 percent. By contrast, the current national unemployment rate is 9.7 percent.