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Arizona offers free college tuition to the state's Native students

Students walk between buildings in September 2014 at the Little Singer Community School in Birdsprings, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation.
John Locher
/
AP
Students walk between buildings in September 2014 at the Little Singer Community School in Birdsprings, Ariz., on the Navajo Nation.

The University of Arizona announced Monday that Native American students no longer would have to pay tuition or fees at its main campus in Tucson. The university hopes the new program better serves the state's large Native population.

The program, a first of its kind in an Arizona public university, will be available for students registered to any of the state's 22 federally recognized tribes. More than 400 current students will be eligible at the school's main campus in Tucson, where tuition currently is $12,700 per semester.

"The University of Arizona is committed to recognizing and acknowledging the history endured by Native American communities," Kasey Urquídez, the school's vice president of enrollment management, said in a statement. "We are committed to promoting access and success for Indigenous students."

The University of Arizona joins a number of other public universities offering free tuition to Native students, including state schools in California, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana and Oregon.

The goal of the programs is to erase some of the barriers to entry for tribal students. About a quarter of Native students pursue higher education, compared to 40% of students overall, according to the Postsecondary National Policy Institute.

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Sequoia Carrillo is an assistant editor for NPR's Education Team. Along with writing, producing, and reporting for the team, she manages the Student Podcast Challenge.