Tester Leads Colleagues in Push to Renew Funding for Montana’s Tribal Colleges and Universities

Mandatory federal funding expired on September 30 without a Senate vote

U.S. Senator Jon Tester, along with Alabama Senator Doug Jones, is leading a group of 36 colleagues in a new push to fund Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, the senators called for the immediate passage of the Tester-backed, bipartisan FUTURE Act, which would reauthorize $255 million in mandatory federal funding for these institutions, which expired on September 30, 2019. The House of Representatives approved the legislation unanimously in September.

“Historically Black College and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and minority serving institutions (MSIs) are an essential component of America’s higher education and workforce development system,” Tester and his colleagues wrote. “Given the importance of this funding to hundreds of institutions and millions of students, we request that the Senate delay no longer and take up the bipartisan FUTURE Act immediately to avoid permanent damage to our nation’s colleges.”

Tester has been an avid supporter of education initiatives in Indian Country. He recently reintroduced his Native Educator Support and Training (NEST) Act to recruit more Native American teachers and retain qualified educators in Indian Country, and he was instrumental in negotiating a budget deal that brought millions to Native American education programs earlier this year.

“The loss of these funds would be huge for Montana Tribal Colleges,” said David Yarlott, Jr., President of Little Big Horn College. “The funds are used to support many critical functions of the institutions, of which many would be discontinued if the funds were no longer available…A loss of the funds would drastically impact services at TCUs.”

FUTURE Act funding is critical for TCUs,” said Sandra Boham, President of Salish Kootenai College and Chair of the Montana Tribal College President’s Association. “Already operating on finite resources, these funds allow institutions to expand and strengthen, shoring up student services to meet the unique needs of our communities. We are in full support of reauthorization of this vital funding.”

Montana is home to seven Tribal Colleges and Universities, the most of any state. These institutions serve thousands of Native students and hundreds of non-Native students each year. Across the country, there are 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities operating 75 campuses in 16 states.

Full text of the letter can be found HERE.