August 10, 2017
TAHLEQUAH, Okla. – Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker announced Thursday that he and members of the Tribal Council have reached a solution to fund scholarships that had been in question for qualifying students.
“I’m pleased to announce that every freshman who would have qualified for the Cherokee Promise Scholarship will get the exact same amount of money that he or she was expecting for school for both the fall and spring semesters,” Chief Baker said. “There was some initial confusion when students were first notified, but after a few days of sorting through it all, we have demonstrated what we are best at – finding a way to say ‘yes’ instead of saying ‘no.’ I’m proud that my administration’s commitment to education is unmatched, sending over 5,000 students to college.”
Last week, Cherokee Nation education officials sent letters to applicants, notifying them that the Cherokee Promise Scholarship would not be accepting new students.
After the letters went out, Chief Baker and members of his administration held talks with some members of the council, including Tribal Council Speaker Joe Byrd and Executive and Finance Committee Chairperson Janees Taylor, and determined there was money to fund qualifying students who met the Promise Scholarship requirements up to the full $4,600 per semester for their entire freshman year. The full scholarship is also determined on whether a student lives independently on or off campus.
The proposal will go before the full council on Aug. 15 as part of a modification to the tribe's fiscal year 2017 budget. Tribal Council approval is expected.
“Last week I and a number of my colleagues on the council expressed concern to the administration about the difficult position these students would be in,” Tribal Councilor Taylor said. “In this type of situation, those of us in leadership positions have to roll up our sleeves and find solutions. This was no time for leaders to stand on the sidelines and simply criticize. Fortunately, our hard work led to a solution for these students.”
The Cherokee Promise Scholarship began in 2010. The program is being discontinued, except for those sophomores, juniors and seniors currently enrolled in the program.
Chief Baker says he hopes this funding development will help put students and parents at ease ahead of the new school year so the focus can rightfully be on their higher education endeavors.
“The letter mailed to students last week certainly could have been clearer, and for that we apologize to the affected families," Chief Baker said. “We are committed to avoiding this kind of uncertainty in the future, but more importantly, we have worked hard to resolve the situation and fully fund these qualifying students.”
None of the tribe’s other higher education programs are impacted by these actions, including the popular undergraduate scholarship program.
The Cherokee Nation continues to fund more students than ever before. In six short years, the tribe’s student scholarship count has grown from 2,600 students in 2012 to more than 5,000 in 2017.
Letters with additional information are being mailed to applicants. Students or parents with questions should contact College Resources at 918-453-5000 ext. 5465.