August 7, 2020

The American Indian Graduate Center’s 50th Anniversary Marked By Gift From MacKenzie Scott

Author: Michael T. Nietzel

The American Indian Graduate Center (AIGC) reached an important milestone in 2020 - its 50th anniversary of service to college-bound Native American students. Although the Center elected, in light of the coronavirus, to forego any formal celebrations, it still has had plenty to cheer about this year.
Last month, it learned it was one of the recipients of a donation from MacKenzie Scott, who recently announced the $1.7 billion in gifts she has made in the past several months to more than 100 nonprofit organizations focused on racial justice, gender equity, economic mobility and other social causes. The AIGC received a $20 million unrestricted gift from Ms. Scott, the largest individual gift in its history, according to Angelique Albert, the Center’s executive director.
Founded in 1969, the AIGC awarded its first scholarship in 1970. Since then, it has made $350 million in awards to more than 16,000 Native American students. Over the years, those scholarship recipients have enrolled at 1,700 different colleges and universities in the United States. Year in and year out, the greatest number of recipients come from four states - New Mexico, Oklahoma, California and Arizona - but all 5o states have been represented at some point.
The Scholarships
Last year, AIGC awarded about $14.5 million in aid to 1,340 recipients, for an average award of $10,408. Most of the scholarships are awarded to undergraduates (47%), but students who are in Master’s (31%), PhD. (14%) and first-professional programs (8%) are also well-represented. Award amounts range from $250 to $30,000. Some scholarships are for one year only; others are renewable.
Among the major donors to AIGC scholarships are Accenture, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Bureau of Indian Education, CNIGA, Wells Fargo, NIKE N-7, and the United Negro College Fund.
Eligibility
Applicants must complete and have certified a Tribal Eligibility Certificate that authenticates they are a member of a federally recognized or state-recognized tribe. To date, recipients have been selected from 574 federally recognized tribes and 63 state-recognized tribes.
Selection criteria (e.g., need-based or merit-based) differ depending on the funding source for each of the many scholarships administered by the Center, but students majoring in all fields of collegiate study are eligible.
Support Services
During an interview this week with Ms. Albert, she told me that student support “was an area where we really shine.” The intent is to provide every recipient with personal contact and support throughout the duration of an award. That support, which Albert said will now increase substantially as a result of the Scott gift, generally comes in two forms:
Academic advisors, who use phone calls, email, Facebook and other forms of social media to keep in touch with students and track their progress, advise about financial aid, trouble-shoot any difficulties students report, and act as a broker for needed support services;
Campus outreach, where AIGC staff visit the campuses where scholarship holders are enrolled to assess their progress as well as the academic guidance and social support that the institution is providing them.
AIGC also operates a relatively small high school program that focuses primarily on college preparation, grooming students to apply to and succeed in college. One component is the selection of an All Native American High School Academic Team that honors ten American Indian and Alaska Native high school students, based on demonstration of outstanding, original academic, artistic or leadership achievements.
Ms. Albert pointed to the graduation rate of AIGC alumni as an indication of the success of the Center’s support services. While nationally, the six-year graduation rate of Native American undergraduates is 41%; 61% of AIGC scholars complete their undergraduate degree in six years, a 50% improvement.
The overall impact of the Center is also revealed by the remarkable increase in Nati