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University of California announces tuition-free plan for Native American students

Students walk at UC San Diego in this undated photo.
Milan Kovacevic
Students walk at UC San Diego in this undated photo.

California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American tribes will soon be eligible for a tuition-free college education. According to UC President Michael Drake, all nine University of California campuses will offer free-tuition to Native Americans, a demographic that now makes up less than 1% of the UC’s student body.

Drake said the system is committed to, “acknowledging historical wrongs endured by Native Americans.”

While Joely Proudfit, professor and Director of the California Indian Culture & Sovereignty Center at Cal State San Marcos applauded the news, she said more needs to be done to ensure Native Americans have more access to higher education in California.

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"While I think it's a step in the right direction and really am happy to hear this announcement, there are so many more students that need the opportunity for advancement that this current announcement leaves out," Proudfit said.

She joined Midday Edition Wednesday to talk about the news and what it means for local Native American students and universities trying to recruit them.

"We know that retention can be very challenging and difficult for Native students. So that's something that we want to consider it's beyond simply tuition," Proudfit said.

Tishmall Turner, Vice Chair of the Rincon Band of Luiseno Indians, also joined Midday Edition to talk about how universities can better connect with tribal youth.

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"I think that going out to communities, not necessarily just having the students come to campuses, but actually going into communities and building relationships, and that's what Cal State San Marcos has done. Our students actually go out to reservations and meet tribal leaders and really build relationships, and I think that is what is really important," Turner said.