U.S. Senate Unanimously Passes Tester’s FUTURE Act to Renew Tribal College Funding

Bill to fund Montana Tribal Colleges and Universities—whose funding expired Sept 30th—awaits President’s signature

U.S. Senator Jon Tester’s bill to bolster higher education in Indian Country passed the U.S. Senate this week with unanimous support.

The Fostering Undergraduate Talent by Unlocking Resources for Education (FUTURE) Act would provide $255 million annually in mandatory federal funding for two years for Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), as well as Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions. This critical funding expired on September 30th as a result of Senate inaction, despite receiving unanimous approval in the House of Representatives earlier in the month.

“Tribal Colleges and Universities provide critical resources and training to the next generation of leaders in Indian Country,” Tester said. “I’m happy to see that my colleagues finally agree, and look forward to the continued success of these institutions as they help students learn, grow, and gain the skills that will help them succeed.”

Tester has led the charge in the Senate for Tribal College funding since it expired on September 30, and called on Senate leadership to pass the FUTURE Act in a letter cosigned by 36 of his Senate colleagues. As a result, the amended version that passed the Senate this week provides for permanent funding for the FUTURE Act to strengthen TCUs and other Minority-Serving Institutions’ academic, financial, and administrative capabilities.

A longtime proponent of education initiatives in Indian Country, Tester 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. Tester also secured $663,106 in U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tribal College Initiative Grants for five TCUs in Montana for campus improvement projects.

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 and are critical in helping Tribes address workforce needs and provide postsecondary educational opportunities for Tribal members. Across the country, there are 37 Tribal Colleges and Universities operating 75 campuses in 16 states.