Top 30 Tribal Colleges and Universities

Tribal colleges exist to provide accessible higher education options to the members of American Indian tribes in their region. Native American colleges are often located on, or in close proximity to, the American Indian Reservation they serve. Tribal colleges and universities come in many different forms. Many are community colleges, but some are universities that offer bachelor’s or master’s level programs.

While a tribal college might focus on preserving the intellectual traditions of a specific tribe, they are often open to students of all tribal and ethnic backgrounds. Most tribal colleges have an open admissions policy, and are incredibly affordable. And a great number of the schools included in this ranking of the top tribal colleges also have an extremely low student to faculty ratio, which increases the individual attention students can receive.

Tribal colleges and universities are a great choice for anyone who wants to root their higher education in the values, history, and culture of a specific tribe. For this ranking we evaluated tribal colleges against each other using the factors of tuition, graduation rate, and student to faculty ratio. Points were assigned based on these factors, and then curved so that the top scoring college had a score of 100 on a 100 point scale.

Author’s Note 1: It’s important to understand that tribal colleges and universities are not a monolith. American Indian culture is a rich and varied spectrum, and each tribal college and university is rooted in the history, intellectual tradition, and values of the tribe it serves.

Author’s Note 2: The author of this ranking article is not a member of any group indigenous to North America. While he made every attempt to respect the names, identity, and preferred terminology of each tribe, it is entirely possible mistakes were made. 

#1. Haskell Indian Nations University

Score: 100

Haskell Indian Nations University was founded 114 years ago and started offering college-level courses in 1970. Haskell offers associate-level programs designed to be easily transferable to a 4-year school. Students will find associate degree programs in liberal arts, communication studies, media communication, social work, community health, and natural sciences. Students can also earn bachelor’s level degrees in indigenous and American Indian studies, elementary education, business administration, and environmental science.

  • Tuition: $1,600
  • Graduation Rate: 74%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 21 to 1

#2. Tohono O’odham Community College

Score: 87.30

While Tohono O’odham’s primary purpose is to serve the residents of the Tohono O’odham nation, the school welcomes anybody of any background who wishes to pursue higher education. Tohono O’odham features associate degrees in life science, physical science, studies in indigenous borderlands, liberal arts, social work, Tohono O’odham studies, early childhood education, and elementary education.

  • Tuition: $932
  • Graduation Rate: 17%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#3. Leech Lake Tribal College

Score: 86.32

Leech Lake Tribal College strives to provide students with quality degree programs that are grounded in Anishinaabe values. Anyone with a high school diploma or GED can enroll in courses thanks to Leech Lake’s open admissions policy. Leech Lake offers associate degrees in Indigenous American Leadership, liberal arts, business management, early childhood education, integrated residential building, forest ecology, earth systems science, and a diploma in residential carpentry.

  • Tuition: $4,198
  • Graduation Rate: 65%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#4. Chief Dull Knife College

Score: 84.73

Chief Dull Knife College is located in Lame Deer, Montana, on the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. The college welcomes students of all gender identities, race, national, or ethnic origins. CDKC offers associate degree programs in the areas of addiction studies, allied health, agricultural/animal science, biology, business, chemistry, Cheyenne studies, elementary education, environmental sciences, and more.

  • Tuition: $2,260
  • Graduation Rate: 44%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

#5. Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute

Score: 84.11

The Southwestern Indian Polytechnic Institute is located in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Students can earn associate-level degrees in culinary arts, environmental science, geospatial information technology, natural resources management, pre-engineering (designed for transfer into a full 4-year engineering program), vision care technology, accounting, early childhood education, business administration, and liberal arts.

  • Tuition: $1,095
  • Graduation Rate: 35%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 18 to 1

#6. Turtle Mountain Community College

Score: 83.25

Turtle Mountain Community College has two campuses in Belcourt, North Dakota. TMCC offers associate degrees in Anishinaabe Language, Ogimaawi Leadership, and natural resource management. Students can also earn a bachelor of science in teacher education (elementary or secondary science), and a bachelor of arts in leadership and management. The elementary education degree licenses students to teach grades 1-8, and the secondary science track will allow students to become licensed to teach 5th-12th grades.

  • Tuition: $2,250
  • Graduation Rate: 33%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

#7. Diné College

Score: 83.02

Diné College serves a primarily Navajo student population from the 27,000 square miles of the Navajo Nation that spans the states of Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah. Students can earn both bachelor’s and associate’s degrees at the school in areas like fine arts, Diné studies, early childhood education, elementary education, secondary education mathematics, secondary education science, biology, environmental science, health occupation, mathematics, physics, and public health.

  • Tuition: $1,410
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

#8. Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College

Score: 81.11

Saginaw Chippewa Tribal College is located in Mount Pleasant Missouri. SCTC offers associate degree programs in Native American studies, business, science, and liberal arts. These degrees are designed specifically to transfer seamlessly into 4-year programs. They also offer an online GED program for students who wish to complete their GED.

  • Tuition: $2,210
  • Graduation Rate: 20%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 6 to 1

#9. Aaniiih Nakoda College

Score: 79.08

Aaniiih Nakoda College is located on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation of the White Clay in Montana. The school provides education to both tribal and non-tribal members. Students can earn associate degrees in American Indian Studies, business, early childhood education, computer information systems, environmental science, and industrial trades. In addition to the associate degrees students can also earn certificates in tribal management, welding, and health science.

  • Tuition: $2,410
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

#10. Cankdeska Cikana Community College

Score: 71.87

Cankdeska Cikana Community College is located on Spirit Lake Dakota Reservation. Students can earn associate degrees in social work, business administration, Dakota studies, early childhood education, natural resource management, pre-engineering, and pre-nursing. Certificates are available in carpentry, office technology, professional driver training, and early childhood education.

  • Tuition: $3,300
  • Graduation Rate: 20%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 5 to 1

#11. Fort Peck Community College

Score: 71.58

Fort Peck Community College is tribally controlled and was chartered by the Sioux and Fort Peck Assiniboine Tribes. The associate of arts degree at Fort Peck Community College is specifically designed to transfer into 4-year programs in the areas of business administration, education, Native American studies, psychology, and social work. The associate of science programs offered include biomedical science, environmental science, and pre-health/nursing.

  • Tuition: $2,250
  • Graduation Rate: 15%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

#12. Iḷisaġvik College

Score: 63.46

Iḷisaġvik College is located in Barrow, the northernmost point of Alaska, and is Alaska’s only tribal college. The college offers associate degree programs in accounting, business management, education, emergency services, information technology, liberal arts, and Inupiaq studies. Non-degree programs are also offered in the areas of industrial safety, heavy equipment, and construction technology.

  • Tuition: $4,300
  • Graduation Rate: 29%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 8 to 1

#13. Bay Mills Community College

Score: 70.73

Bay Mills Community College is located on the southeastern shoreline of Lake Superior, within the Bay Mills Indian Community. Bay Mills was the first tribally controlled college to achieve accreditation in the state of Michigan. Bay Mills offers associate and bachelor level degrees. At the bachelor level, students can take programs in early childhood education, the courses for which are delivered entirely online.

  • Tuition: $3,320
  • Graduation Rate: 39%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 14 to 1

#14. United Tribes Technical College

Score: 68.95

United Tribes Technical College offers a mix of associate and bachelor’s degrees. Bachelor’s degrees include programs in business administration, elementary education, and environmental science and research. Associate’s degrees include programs in criminal justice, computer information technology, culinary arts and nutrition, graphic design, pre-engineering, and automotive technology.

  • Tuition: $4,252
  • Graduation Rate: 39%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#15. Nebraska Indian Community College

Score: 67.47

Nebraska Indian Community College has been serving the Omaha and Santee Dakota tribal communities, along with anyone else who wants to pursue higher education, for 40 years. The college offers associate degrees in carpentry, business, early childhood education, liberal arts, human services, Native American studies, general science studies, and paraeducator and pre-teacher education.

  • Tuition: $4,080
  • Graduation Rate: 25%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 5 to 1

#16. Blackfeet Community College

Score: 65.94

Blackfeet Community College has been providing higher educational services to the residents of the Blackfeet Nation and local communities since 1974. Students can earn associate’s degrees in nursing, environmental science, health science, pre-engineering, geographical information systems, psychology, addiction studies, early childhood education, Piikani studies and language, accounting, and business management.

  • Tuition: $3,370
  • Graduation Rate: 21%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#17. Oglala Lakota College

Score: 65.38

Oglala Lakota College provides a number of associate through master’s level degree programs to the people who live in and around the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The college offers masters degrees in Lakota Leadership and Management, with an optional education administration emphasis. Bachelor’s degrees offered include business, education, natural science, Lakota studies, social work, and social science. And associate’s degrees are available in electrical technology, general construction, automotive technology, information technology, and plumbing.

  • Tuition: $2,684
  • Graduation Rate: 12%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

#18. College of Menominee Nation

Score: 65.26

The College of Menominee Nation was created to serve the educational needs of dozens of tribes, including the Menominee, Oneida, Chippewa, Ho-Chunk, Navajo, Potawatomi, and Mohegan tribes. The college offers bachelor degrees in areas like public administration, education, business administration, early childhood education. Associate degrees include biological and physical sciences, digital media, business administration, natural resources, and public administration.

  • Tuition: $6,200
  • Graduation Rate: 56%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 6 to 1

#19. White Earth Tribal and Community College

Score: 63.31

White Earth Tribal and Community College is an Anishinaabe controlled liberal arts community college. The college offers associate degrees in education, environmental science, and human services. The education degree offers a general education track, and early childhood education track. The human services degree offers a social work track, and a chemical dependency track.

  • Tuition: $4,232
  • Graduation Rate: 30%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#20. Salish Kootenai College

Score: 57.76

Salish Kootenai College is located in Pablo, Montana, and provides both bachelor and associate level degree programs to meet the higher education needs of the people of the Flathead Nation. Bachelor’s degrees include business administration, early childhood education, elementary education, forestry (forest management and wildland fire management options), information technology, nursing, social work, and more. Most of these, and many more programs, are also offered at the associate level.

  • Tuition: $6,399
  • Graduation Rate: 52%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 8 to 1

#21. Sitting Bull College

Score: 57.42

Sitting Bull College’s main campus is in Fort Yates, North Dakota. The school offers degrees at the associate through master’s level. Students can take a master of science degree in either education or environmental science; bachelor’s degrees in areas like Native American Studies, social work, education, and business administration; and associate degrees in areas like nursing (for transfer), pre-engineering, criminal justice, information technology, and teacher education.

  • Tuition: $4,010
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 7 to 1

#22. Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College

Score: 57.03

Nueta Hidatsa Sahnish College is located in New Town, North Dakota and offers both bachelor and associate level degrees. Students can choose between degrees in business administration, computer science, early childhood education, elementary education, environmental science, equine studies, human services social work, mathematics, Native studies, and pre-engineering.

  • Tuition: $3,870
  • Graduation Rate: 8%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 6 to 1

#23. Sinte Gleska University

Score: 54.57

Sinte Gleska University was founded in 1971 and is a private American Indian tribal college on the Rosebud Indian Reservation located in Mission, South Dakota. The university offers 25 associate degrees, 23 bachelor’s degrees, and two master’s degrees. These include undergraduate and master’s degrees in human services, and education.

  • Tuition: $3,154
  • Graduation Rate: 7%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

#24. Fond du Lac Tribal and Community College

Score: 54.37

This dual public and tribal community college was founded by the Fond du Lac Chippewa tribe in Cloquet, Minnesota. The school offers associate degrees in American Indian studies, business, environmental science, fitness and health, geographic information, human services, liberal arts and sciences, nursing, corrections and art.

  • Tuition: $5,461
  • Graduation Rate: 53%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 17 to 1

#25. Little Big Horn College

Score: 53.60

Little Big Horn College can be found in the town of Crow Agency, Montana. It is a tribally controlled Crow college that is dedicated to passing down the cultural and linguistic tradition of the Crow people. Associate degree programs include business administration, Crow studies, education, human services, liberal arts, information systems, mathematics, and science. There is also a directed individualized studies program that allows students to create their own degree.

  • Tuition: $3,200
  • Graduation Rate: 13%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 15 to 1

#26. Navajo Technical University

Score: 51.41

Navajo Technical University offers associate degree programs in culinary arts, energy systems, engineering technology, environmental science and natural resources, information technology, geographic information technology, public administration and more. Bachelor’s degrees are available in hotel and restaurant administration, and advanced manufacturing technology. Students can earn a master of arts degree in Dine culture, language, and leadership.

  • Tuition: $4,070
  • Graduation Rate: 16%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 12 to 1

#27. Northwest Indian College

Score: 50.21

Northwest Indian College is located on the land of the Lummi Nation. Surrounded by Washington State, the college is about 20 miles south of the U.S.-Canadian border. Bachelor’s programs at the college include native studies leadership, tribal governance and business management, native environmental science, and community advocates and responsive education in human service. Associate’s degrees programs include early childhood education, business and entrepreneurship, chemical dependency studies, and public and tribal administration.

  • Tuition: $4,840
  • Graduation Rate: 19%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 9 to 1

#28. Sisseton Wahpeton College

Score: 46.79

Sisseton Wahpeton College is a tribal community college serving primarily the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate of the Lake Traverse Reservation (80% of students are tribal members). Students can earn associate degrees in subjects like Dakota studies, business administration, early childhood development, addiction and diversity counseling, and sustainable environmental studies.

  • Tuition: $4,510
  • Graduation Rate: 11%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 10 to 1

#29. Stone Child College

Score: 40.09

Stone Child College is a tribally controlled college that serves the Chippewa Cree Tribe and is dedicated to preserving and passing on the language, culture, and history of that tribe. The school offers a bachelor degree in elementary education. Associate degrees are available in allied health, general science, general business, hospitality, information systems, math, Native American studies, studio art, and rural behavioral health.

  • Tuition: $2,645
  • Graduation Rate: 12%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 22 to 1

#30. College of the Muscogee Nation

Score: 38.71

The College of the Muscogee Nation serves the Muscogee tribe and community by providing an institution of higher education that is tribally controlled and strives to reflect, uphold, and pass on the core values of Muscogee culture to future generations. Students can earn associate level degrees in Native American studies, tribal services, criminal justice, natural resources, and gaming.

  • Tuition: $6,600
  • Graduation Rate: 37%
  • Student to Faculty Ratio: 13 to 1

Frequently Asked Questions

What are tribal colleges?

Tribal colleges and universities are institutions of higher learning created to serve the higher education needs of members of the various American Indian peoples of North America. Each tribal college or university may serve on or multiple tribes. The colleges are tribally established and controlled. Classes tend to be informed by a given tribe’s identity and values, and in many cases center issues close to the tribe’s heart.

How many tribal colleges are there in the United States?

There are currently 32 tribal colleges and universities in the United States. It’s important to note that there are many more tribes than this. There are currently 574 American Indian tribes federally recognized by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And there are many more unrecognized tribes. Many tribal colleges and universities serve many tribes, as there is not a 1:1 college to tribe ratio.

Who funds tribal colleges?

Tribal colleges and universities are funded in the same ways most other colleges and universities are funded. The bulk of funds comes from the U.S. federal government. Many tribes supplement this funding with their own money. And of course the schools are also partially funded through tuition, and therefore through scholarships. There are many scholarships available to those of American Indian heritage, and many of those scholarships are accessible through the American Indian College Fund.

Can I attend a tribal college or university if I am not a member of the tribes it serves?

None of the tribal colleges or universities in this ranking, as far as we can tell, discriminates based on race, ethnicity, tribal affiliation, or sex. Most of them have open admissions policies, meaning everyone who applies with a high school diploma or GED is accepted. It may be difficult to attend some of them if you do not live close to the school, however, as some, especially those that function as community colleges, do not provide on-campus housing. But if you want to attend, and you’re local, then you shouldn’t have any problems doing so, whether or not you are an official member of the tribe that manages the college.

GCD staff

Additional Resources:

This concludes our ranked list of tribal colleges and universities 2020.