BEMIDJI, Minn. — Red Lake Nation College may be small, but on Monday, Oct. 28, it became the destination for tribal college leaders and industry professionals from all across the country.
Board members of the American Indian College Fund traveled to Minnesota to have their quarterly meeting at Red Lake Nation College. While meeting itself may have been relatively routine, it represented another step forward for the northern Minnesota college.
Dan King, president of Red Lake Nation College, is on the board of the American Indian College Fund. That only became possible when Red Lake’s college began the process of accreditation. Becoming affiliated with the college fund has opened avenues for additional funding and scholarships for the school.
King said the college is playing a role in bolstering the whole Red Lake community. Tribal leaders conducted a survey before the college opened its new campus, revealing that only 1.5 percent of the area's population had a four-year-degree.
“That’s not an education gap; that’s an education canyon,” King said. “To me, that’s what I think this college is for.”
The college, which has a current enrollment of 161 students, serves as a two-year school. King said they work to get their students ready to go off and achieve four-year degrees at other institutions.
While Red Lake Nation College has been around for a number of years, it opened the doors to its new campus in 2015 and became a candidate for accreditation in 2016 through the Higher Learning Commission. King said they should be able to achieve full accreditation this spring.
Monday was the first time the American Indian College Fund had ever been to Red Lake Nation.
In addition to hosting their business meeting, the board members with the college fund toured the Red Lake campus. Half the members of the board are tribal college presidents. The other half are from the private sector, coming from companies such as Walmart and Coca-Cola. The fund itself, helps support some 37 tribal colleges and universities throughout the country.
AICF board member Michael Purvis said the fund this year is giving out more than $10.8 million in scholarships.
Red Lake Nation College currently receives about $100,000 annually from American Indian College Fund, which goes toward scholarships for students.