Cherokee Nation clarifies confusion regarding college scholarship applications

August 3, 2017

98 applicants guaranteed $2,000 per semester, may apply for $1,000 per semester for housing

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TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – The Cherokee Nation sought to clarify confusion among applicants to the Cherokee Promise Scholarship program by reassuring students at least $2,000 per semester is available to each student who applies and another $1,000 per semester is available for housing to those who meet income guidelines. Ninety-eight incoming freshmen applied for the Cherokee Promise Scholarship, which funds students who meet academic, income and other guidelines, to attend NSU, Rogers State or Connors State. The 98 applicants are nearly twice the number of sophomores through seniors currently enrolled in the program, which stands at 54 students for academic year 2017-2018.

Cherokee Nation Executive Director of Education Ron Etheridge released the following statement after applicants to the Cherokee Promise Scholarship received a letter notifying them of changes.

“Cherokee Nation is fortunate in that we have been able to grow many of our college scholarship programs, and year after year we have awarded more scholarship dollars to more students. The 2017-2018 academic year will be no different, but there are changes to one program that some incoming college freshmen applied for who are attending school inside the 14 counties of the Cherokee Nation. Since the 2010-2011 academic year, the Cherokee Promise Scholarship awarded $4,600 per semester to eligible students living on campus and attending either Northeastern State University, Rogers State University or Connors State College, as long as they met income, academic and other guidelines.

“A portion of the scholarship, $1,600 per semester, has been funded by NAHASDA (Native American Housing Assistance and Self Determination Act of 1996) since the program began. As our department and all departments at the Cherokee Nation face an uncertain federal budget and concern over the amount of NAHASDA funds Cherokee Nation will have in the coming budget years, we also received a record number of applicants to the program by the June 15, 2017 deadline. We received 98 applicants this year for a program that currently has only 54 participants who are sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“After much careful thought and consideration, weighing our obligation to existing students, the reliability of future NAHASDA funding for the program and long term stability of the Cherokee Promise Scholar program under this funding model, the most prudent decision was to eliminate the $1,600 per semester NAHASDA portion of the program. Students who applied for the Cherokee Promise Scholarship will still receive the $2,000 per semester Cherokee Nation undergraduate scholarship and are eligible for $1,000 per semester for college housing assistance. Each student who applied for the Cherokee Promise Scholarship received a letter explaining their options and will receive an award letter soon. In addition, every student currently enrolled in the program will remain fully funded for the duration of their scholarship award. It's important to note that no scholarships were rescinded.

“While $3,000 per semester is less than the $4,600 per semester these students and their families had hoped for, NSU, RSU and Connors State are affordable schools where our Cherokee students are guaranteed an excellent education. We are still on pace to award more scholarship money to more Cherokee students than ever before, and that's something to be extremely proud of.

“Going forward, we will continue to look for even more ways to make sure as many Cherokee students achieve the dream of a college education. In the meantime, we understand the disappointment of the students, parents and their families who had hoped to be a part of this program. We appreciate their patience and understanding and our college resource center is ready to assist them in any way possible in their pursuit of higher education.”