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The University of Minnesota will offer free or reduced tuition to members of the state's recognized Native American tribes starting in 2022. 

The U of M announced Monday it is expanding its tuition support program for Native American students through its new University of Minnesota Native American Promise Tuition Program

“For 170 years, our university has focused attentively on the needs of all Minnesotans," U of M President Joan Gabel said in a statement. "Today we are taking a positive step forward in addressing the needs of Indigenous peoples with a history that predates this state and institution — a step I sincerely hope will have a lasting impact on Tribal communities.

“We have been very honest from my first days as president that we need to better serve citizens of our Tribal Nations and their communities," Gabel added. "This program is a meaningful step to increasing access and continuing to improve retention and graduation rates while closing opportunity gaps, all of which aligns with our mission and our systemwide strategic plan, MPact 2025.”

This new program will offer scholarships covering full U of M tuition at all five campuses (Crookston, Duluth, Morris, Rochester and Twin Cities) starting with the fall 2022 semester. 

Those eligible for free tuition via this program include students with an annual family income of up to $75,000. Students from families with an annual income of up to $125,000 will be eligible to receive "highly discounted" tuition, as much as 80-90% in "many" cases, the university said. 

Eligible students must be enrolled in one of the state's 11 federally recognized Tribal Nations and come to the university straight from high school or transfer from a Minnesota-based Tribal college. 

“Tuition benefits for Native American students will provide more access to the University of Minnesota than ever before. This level of financial assistance — along with the necessary support systems to help Native American students find a welcoming place within our university so they can complete their degree and graduate — can dramatically alter the course of an individual’s life,” Karen Diver, the university’s senior advisor to the president for Native American affairs, said in a statement. 

“Educational attainment is critical to sustaining healthy and prosperous communities, as well as self-determined citizens," Driver added. "This is a significant step toward more equitably offering the access and opportunities that our students and communities need.”

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The Native American Promise Tuition Program is an expansion of the tuition waiver program at the U of M Morris campus that's been in place for decades. 

The waiver program at the Morris campus stems from the school property's extensive history with Native Americans. It was home to Anishinaabe and Dakota/Lakota people prior to becoming a Native American boarding school from 1887-1909, the school's website says. The campus was then transferred to the State of Minnesota, with the stipulation that Native American students "shall at all times be admitted to such school free of charge for tuition."

The campus served as the West Central School of Agriculture from 1910-1963, at which point it became the U of M Morris. More than 6,000 waivers have been awarded to Native American students since the Morris campus joined the U of M system.

The U of M says this new program will be among the most comprehensive free and reduced tuition programs for Native American students in the United States. 

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