Applications for the University of Utah’s Native Student Scholarship program are now open. The renewable scholarship will meet undergraduate Native students’ tuition and mandatory fees not covered by scholarships and grants from all other sources.

“The availability of this scholarship for our Native student population underscores the U’s commitment to providing access to higher education that can transform the lives of students across Utah,” said University of Utah President Taylor Randall in a statement.

Native undergraduate, degree-seeking students currently enrolled full time at the University of Utah are eligible to apply for scholarships for the spring 2023 semester scholarships starting Nov. 1.

High school students and those considering transferring to the University of Utah for fall 2023 semester can apply for the scholarships beginning March 1.

All applicants must be residents of Utah.

Utah’s recognized tribal nations include: Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, Navajo Nation (Diné), Northwestern Band of Shoshoni Nation of Utah (Washakie), Paiute Indian Tribe of Utah (Cedar City Band of Paiutes, Kanosh Band of Paiutes, Koosharem Band of Paiutes, Indian Peaks Band of Paiutes, and Shivwits Band of Paiutes), Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians of Utah, Ute Indian Tribe of Uintah and Ouray Reservation, Ute Mountain Tribe of the Ute Mountain Reservation, Hopi, Zuni and Shoshone-Bannock.

According to enrollment data over the past five years, on average, 120 University of Utah students identify themselves as American Indian or Alaska Native each year, less than 1% of the student body.

Native students in Utah’s public schools comprise about 1% of the 674,351 students who attended district and public charter schools the previous school year, according to Utah State Board of Education data.

Samantha Eldridge, director of the U.’s American Indian Resource Center, said college is an overwhelming expense for many Native students. “Affordability becomes the main obstacle to completing a college degree,” Eldridge said.

The National Native Scholarships Providers’ first-ever National Study on College Affordability for Indigenous Students released this year identifies multiple barriers that Native students face paying for college and graduating:

  • 72 % of study participants reported running out of money at least once in the last six months.
  • 67 % of current students reported being expected to contribute to family bills.
  • More than half of the participants could not save any money before attending college.
  • 16 % of current and former student study participants reported experiencing homelessness during their higher education.

College students in general are also coping with the rising costs of books, housing, food, utilities, motor fuel, car maintenance and cellphone service.

Meet Taylor Randall, the first alum to ascend to University of Utah presidency in 50 years
Higher ed board vows ‘equitable systemic change’ in Utah’s public colleges

“The financial barriers Utah students face can be alleviated through continued investment in scholarships and tuition support. While tuition or financial assistance is not the sole solution, the university has an opportunity to ensure Native students realize their full academic potential and post-graduation success,” said Eldridge.

The scholarship is essentially a tuition waiver, which is offered to Native students by many land-grant institutions as part of their charters. The University of Utah is not a land-grant university, but university leaders have committed to remove obstacles for Native students. Randall announced the program during the 16th annual Governor’s Native American Summit in July.