January 2, 2024
Fort Lewis College prides itself on its steadfast commitment to becoming the higher education institution of choice for Indigenous students.
FLC has unique origins as a military fort turned federal Indian boarding school turned state public college. An essential part of this history is the 1911 mandate that FLC be “maintained as an institution of learning to which Indian students will be admitted free of tuition and on an equality with white students.” Today, approximately 40% of FLC’s students are Native American/Alaska Native. FLC awards more degrees to Native American and Alaska Native students each year than any other four-year institution nationwide.
Central to this work is the Native American Tuition Waiver (NATW), which waives tuition for admitted Native American students who meet eligibility criteria. The NATW is an important commitment for FLC and the State of Colorado.
FLC reviewed the eligibility criteria in Fall 2021 as part of its larger efforts around the College's Indigenous mission and history. President Stritikus, the President’s Cabinet, the Board of Trustees Chair, and the Admission and Diversity Affairs Offices found the criteria used outdated, offensive, and ambiguous language dating back to the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 (e.g., references to residency “within the present boundaries of any Native American reservation” and “shall one-half or more Native American blood”).
The review also found the eligibility criteria were inconsistent with the College’s focus on upholding and strengthening reciprocal relationships with Tribal Nations and honoring tribal sovereignty by unintentionally imposing a definition of who is Native American. One of the fundamental rights of Tribal Nations is the right to self-governance, which includes determining their own citizenship, and these definitions can vary greatly across Tribal Nations. Typically, more than 100 Tribal Nations are represented in the FLC student body.
Beginning in the Spring of 2022, the NATW revised criteria require admitted students to be enrolled citizens or the children of an enrolled citizen of an American Indian Tribal Nation or Alaska Native Village recognized by the U.S. federal government. The updated policy is a result of input from our Tribal Advisory members and a review of other institutions’ waivers across the nation, along with federal documents from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It ensures the criteria allow Tribal Nations to determine their own tribal citizenship.
While it was determined that board approval was not required —as the institution’s governing documents clearly give the President the authority to adopt policies for FLC’s operations and activities— the Board of Trustees was informed throughout this process. Once the NATW criteria language was finalized, all recruiting materials and the College’s website were updated to reflect the revised criteria.
The criteria for the FLC NATW remains among the most expansive in the country, waiving tuition for enrolled citizens or the children of an enrolled citizen of an American Indian Tribal Nation or Alaska Native Village recognized by the U.S. federal government. Unlike other tuition waivers, FLC does not have state residency requirements and is available to undergraduate, graduate, and non-degree-seeking students.
These changes are consistent with the reconciliation work FLC has engaged in over the last five years and reinforce our commitment to upholding and strengthening reciprocal relationships with Tribal Nations and honoring tribal sovereignty. We remain committed to upholding our responsibilities as a Native American Serving Non-Tribal Institution and being the institution of choice for Indigenous students.
Fort Lewis College Native American Tuition Waiver