Taking ‘extraordinary’ steps to support students

By Dine College

When figuring out the cost of college, tuition is only part of the equation. Books, housing and food can make college unaffordable for many.

In a recent survey conducted of Diné College students, 75% of students experienced one or more forms of basic needs insecurity. This includes food insecurity, housing insecurity or homelessness.

In an effort to assist students, Diné College will offer grants to all students to fully cover tuition, meals and residential halls as well as books. Starting this fall, the Arizona college will provide 100% grants to make college more accessible and increase student success.

“We live in extraordinary times and we need to take extraordinary steps to help our Navajo people,” Diné College President Charles Roessel said. “Our students are faced with many insecurities, food, economic, health and these all have an impact on their success in college. These efforts will help alleviate some of the hurdles so our students can earn their degree and help themselves.”

“We wanted to target the needs we are seeing in our students with this initiative,” said Provost Geraldine Garrity. “We have been discussing what interventions and supports we can provide for our students and we finally just said, let’s think bigger.”

When students face economic challenges while attending college, one of the expenses not planned for are books and materials. This plan will address that challenge by including books with the tuition grants so all students will have textbooks from the very first day of attendance.

Funding for this plan will come from monies the college received through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) and the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). “The goal is that by improving retention rates and increasing enrollment, this plan can become sustainable beyond these Covid-related funds,” said Bo Lewis, vice president for finance and administration.

The fear of rising tuition costs and changing fees has a huge impact on attendance of college by students. “To address this,” Roessel said, “our plan will be in place through 2024 because we want our students to be able to plan for their future with something solid to center on.” He continued, “We have focused on student and staff safety for the last 2 and a half years. While we will continue to put safety first, we also need to start seeing how we can help students get back on track to start their future and earn their degree. This is why we are doing this.”

Dine College

is the first tribally controlled and accredited collegiate institution in the United States. It’s located in Tsaile, Arizona.