Wonky Word Wednesdays: Nonbeneficiary

This week, MBPC testified in favor of HB 196 titled Generally revise laws related to tribal colleges and other community colleges, sponsored by Susan Webber (D-Browning). You can listen to the hearing live here. The bill discussion starts at 00:10:30.

This is one of our priorities this session because we know that our tribal colleges play a critical role in providing access to higher education for Montana students, and we are lending our voice to support increased funding. We also released a report titled

A big part of this bill is related to nonbenficiary students, and since the hearing there have been questions around the Capitol halls about what nonbeneficiary means. So we decided to repeat a wonky word to refresh your memory and help those new to wonky words.

Here is our post from this summer.

One of the things I love about Montana is the incredible American Indian culture that surrounds us. It is more than Crow Fair, the Arlee Pow-wow, and North American Indian Days in Browning. It is the names of towns and land across the state. It is the rich history and philosophy that makes our state so exceptional. Each of the 12 unique tribal groups provides us with a culture that adds to the beauty of our state. One significant example of these contributions to our state is the system of tribal colleges. It is with this in mind we announce our wonky word – nonbeneficiary.

To get to our wonky word, I need to do a little lead in.

There are 36 tribal colleges in the US and seven of those are in Montana. These colleges provide an opportunity for all Montanans to access an affordable, quality, higher education. It is often a catalyst for students to begin college and later transfer to a Montana University System school. According to the Tribally Controlled Community College Assistance Act of 1978, tribal colleges are required to have an open door policy for students regardless of race as long as 51% of enrollment is tribal students.

That was important information to know to get us to our wonky word. A nonbeneficiary student is basically a nontribal student. It seems simple, but it is important when we discuss tribal colleges.

What is unique about Montana is that it provides financial assistance to the tribal colleges for each enrolled nonbeneficiary student as long as the credits he or she is getting are transferable to another Montana college or university. The distribution for any student is limited to a maximum of $3,024 each for a full-time student.

There are expected to be about 339 nonbeneficiary students in 2014-15. For some schools, nonbeneficiary students make up 20% of the schools student enrollment. According to the Legislative Fiscal Division, nonbeneficiary enrollment at Montana tribal colleges increased by 24% from the FY2010 to FY2012. (Remember fiscal year from last week?) These numbers are expected to remain elevated through the FY2015.

This hearing on Monday sparked the interests of the Associate Press and the article appeared in many of the daily newspapers in Montana in addition to a paper in Indiana and San Francisco. We hope this discussion will continue as the session progresses because tribal colleges are an important part of educating the workforce in Montana, and nonbeneficiary students should receive the same funding whether they are at a community college or a tribal college.

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