Tester unveils ‘Tribal College Action Plan’

Comprehensive plan was developed at Senator’s Tribal College Summit

(RONAN, MT) – Montana Senator Jon Tester today unveiled his 'Tribal College Action Plan' while delivering the keynote address at the commencement of Salish Kootenai College.  Tester, a member of the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee, recently held a tribal college summit in Browning, MT.  The thoughts and ideas shared at that conference were brought together to form this plan, Tester said.

The legislation, named THE PATH, encourages Tribal Colleges to promote health-related education and train American Indians to join the health-related workforce.  It includes grant funds for nursing programs, community wellness and health clinics and education and outreach programs on key health issues plaguing Indian Country like diabetes, youth at risk and substance abuse. 

"Folks came to Browning with a lot of ideas and a lot of suggestions," Tester said.  "From there we developed something that will go a long way helping restore hope all across Montana.  Healthier communities and good-paying jobs lead to improved overall conditions in Indian Country."

Tester also pledged to fight for changes to the Tribally Controlled College or University Assistance Act within the Higher Education Act to make the funding of American Indian higher education a priority.  Currently the Tribally Controlled Universities receive about $5000 dollars per Indian student, 20% less then the authorized level.

Tester told the graduates that their future and the future of their communities lies in their own hands.

"Help grow a business.  Start a business.  Teach.  Help develop the economy," Tester said.  "You have the opportunity – and it's an important one – to improve quality of life in Indian Country and in Montana.  It's a responsibility I know none of you take lightly.  And I hope it's one that each of you will seize each and every day, starting this afternoon, after you cross this stage."

Salish Kootenai College, located in Pablo, MT, awarded 175 certificates, associated degrees and bachelor's degrees today.  The commencement ceremony was held at the Ronan Event Center.