Native American students attending schools in the University of California (UC) system will have their tuition fully waived starting this fall.
Announced in April, the UC Native American Opportunity Plan allows California residents who are “members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian, and Alaska Native tribes” to get free education on UC campuses. The program applies to undergraduate and graduate students.
“The University of California is committed to recognizing and acknowledging historical wrongs endured by Native Americans,” UC President Michael Drake said in a letter (pdf). “I am proud of the efforts the University of California has made to support the Native American community, including the creation of the [program].”
The UC system has ten campuses—Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Merced, Riverside, San Diego, San Francisco, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. About 295,000 students were enrolled in the system in fall 2021.
The program is expected to cost $2.4 million and will be funded mainly by both the state’s and UC’s financial aid programs, according to Drake’s office.
The program was developed to expand “student diversity and make the University of California more affordable and accessible,” Drake said in the letter. The approximate annual tuition for a state resident is $13,104, according to the UC Admissions office.
California has 109 federally recognized tribes and has more Native Americans and those of Alaska Native heritage than any other state in the country, according to the Judicial Council of California.
Native Americans make up 1.7 percent of the state’s population while accounting for 0.5 percent of the UC system’s student body in Fall 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the university’s enrollment statistics.
Some universities and lawmakers across the country are following UC’s steps.
In June, the University of Arizona announced its Arizona Native Scholars Grant program, which completely covers tuition and mandatory fees for full-time undergraduate students who belong to any of the state’s 22 federally recognized tribes starting this fall. The program would benefit over 400 students and may expand to graduate students in the future, according to the university.
Oregon launched a free tuition program in May for Native American students from nine federally recognized tribes in the state to remove financial barriers to a college education for the 2022–2023 school year, according to the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.