What financial aid is available for Native Americans?

There are tons of financial aid options are available for Native American students who want to attend college, including a variety of grants and scholarships.  And many of them are either sponsored by nationally-recognized organizations or private institutions.

Financial Aid Eligibility

Most Native American scholarships, grants, and other forms of assistance require applicants to prove that they’re officially a member of a tribe recognized by the federal government. Students who are not enrolled members of a tribe likely won’t qualify for aid reserved for Native Americans. That being said, students can typically use a Certificate of Indian Blood, or CIB, to prove their tribal membership.

Some forms of assistance, such as the aid offered by the US Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), requires eligible recipients to have at least one-quarter of Native American blood in addition to being in a recognized tribe.

First Nations people from Canada who want to attend college in the United States are eligible for aid through Title IV, as well, but only if they prove that they are 50 percent Native American. Financial aid is open to Canadian students due to the Jay Treaty of 1794 and US Immigration Law, among other treaties.

On the FAFSA® form, these students register as “eligible non-citizens,” but don’t input anything in the Alien Registration Number section. Proof of their birthplace and bloodline also needs to be sent to the financial aid administrator of the school(s) they want to attend.

Sources of Financial Aid for Native Americans

To apply for an Indian Education Grant from the BIA, students must visit their local office, their tribe, or their home agency. The financial aid administrator of the college a student wants to attend must send the tribe’s Higher Education director a needs assessment.

The American Indian College Fund (AICF) is another avenue for financial aid. It’s a non-profit organization that offers scholarships to both Alaska Native and Native American students. Every year, it provides the most assistance to these students. The AICF also financially supports 33 universities that are accredited tribal institutions.

An undergraduate’s tribal office has a wealth of information regarding financial help, too. Many tribes offer scholarships to student members and can especially help students who don’t receive a grant from the BIA.

The Indian Health Service office offers both loans and scholarships through the IHS Loan Repayment Program and the IHS Scholarship Program. Through the scholarship program, the IHS can pay a student’s full tuition, along with books, equipment, uniforms, insurance, travel, board exams, and fees for accounting, engineering, and health students. Recipients even receive a stipend for personal use.

Some colleges and universities offer full scholarships to demonstrably Native American students. Full-blooded applicants may receive free tuition, along with free room and board. State schools are the best place to start. It pays to inquire about an individual college’s policy before sending out admission applications.

The Daughters of the American Revolution has an American Indian Scholarship Fund that gives out scholarships of $500 to a number of students every year.

A student’s state may award scholarships to Native Americans, as well, as in the case of the American Indian Endowed Scholarship in Washington State. 

Major-Based Assistance

To incentivize certain degrees and professions, there are programs that offer assistance to applicants who pursue certain majors.

The American Indian Science and Engineering Society awards aid to qualifying students interested in engineering degrees or the sciences. Individual schools may offer an American Indian Teacher Training Program (provided in partnership with the Office of Indian Education) that helps incoming teachers who want to teach Native American students or subjects. Students going after health-related degrees can receive help, too. 

Native American students have many opportunities to receive financial aid, and a number of avenues to provide it. Filling out the FAFSA® is an essential part of receiving grants, loans, and scholarships, as it reveals each student’s need. Filing your FAFSA® with Frank can streamline the process. 


“Financial Aid for Native American Students.” FinAid. Web. 2 Mar. 2018.

“Financial Aid Resources for Native American Students.” Whatcom Community College. Web. 2 Mar. 2018.

“Status and Trends in the Education of American Indians and Alaska Natives: 2008.” National Center for Education Statistics. Web. 2 Mar. 2018.