U.S. Senate panel to hear Fort Lewis plea

Helping meet costs of Native American tuition waiver is focus

DENVER – Fort Lewis College will get to plead its case for its Native American tuition waiver to a U.S. Senate committee today.

The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will hold a field hearing at the Colorado State Capitol to hear about a bill that would reimburse FLC for tuition from out-of-state Native American students.

The state of Colorado has a century-old contract with the federal government that says Native American students can attend Fort Lewis free of charge.

Currently, the state picks up the tab, but legislators are growing impatient with the program, and in 2010, they tried unsuccessfully to reduce the state’s payments to FLC.

Bills before Congress would get the federal government to pay for out-of-state tuition for Native Americans at FLC and the University of Minnesota-Morris, the only other college in the country with a similar tuition waiver.

At the hearing, senators will hear testimony from Fort Lewis President Dene Kay Thomas and Byron Tsabetsaye, a FLC student government official. They also will hear from a White House official, William Mendoza, director of Initiative on American Indian and Alaska Native Education.

Rep. Scott Tipton, R-Cortez, introduced a bill about the topic last September. It has not received a hearing yet. Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., introduced a Senate version Aug. 2. Senators will examine that bill today.

jhanel@durangoherald.com

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