University of California President Michael Drake has announced in an open letter to the Chancellors of the ten UC’s that the tuition and fees for all Native American California resident students from federally recognized tribes will be waived starting in Fall 2022. The statement explicitly calls out Native students from non-federally recognized tribes but only mentions that scholarships “may be available from external organizations”.

To understand what this means, it is important to understand the breakdown of costs for a traditional UC freshman. For the 2019-20 year, UC Berkeley estimates the cost to attend to be $39,550, with $14,254 being tuition. That is the part that is being waived, but the remaining $25,246 is still a substantial cost. There shouldn’t be any reason it wouldn’t be subsidized or fully covered by financial aid. Since the letter mentions that the program will be funded through “existing State and University financial aid

programs as well as other resources” it seems likely that some financial aid rebalancing means that, at least in part, this is shifting some of the money from the general “grants” pool and into just the tuition and fees of the native students who qualify for this.

The goal of this initiative is almost certainly to encourage Native American students to apply for and choose UC colleges. This report from UC Davis

makes it clear that of the 2,203 Native American students who graduated from a California HS in 2018, only 32% of them met the qualifications for UC enrollment, vs. almost 50% for white students.

The LAist reported that “A university spokesperson says the program is currently estimated to benefit around 500 undergraduate students and 160 graduate students.”

There are currently 109 Federally recognized tribes in California, and according to this (tragically undated) FAQ from the California courts website, there are another 81 groups petitioning for recognition, a process that is long and often very expensive for the tribes who want to gain access to resources, like this new tuition waiver for students.

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