Native American Students

Facts and figures related to Native American students in higher education.


Because Native Americans (both American Indians and Alaska Natives) comprise only 1 percent of the U.S. undergraduate population and less than 1 percent of the graduate population, these students are often left out of postsecondary research and data reporting due to small sample size. What data is available indicates that only 15 percent of Native Americans attain bachelor’s degrees and only 22 percent attain associate’s degrees, making the case for a system that is more responsive to the specific needs of these students.

Enrollment/Degree Attainment

  • College enrollment among Native American 18- to 24-years-olds rose from the 2012-13 academic year to 2013-14.
    • The higher education participation rate of Native American students went from 32 percent in 2012-13 to 35 percent in 2013-14.
  • Between 2005 and 2015, the percentage of Native Americans aged 25 to 29 who had attained at least an associate’s or bachelor’s degree were not significantly different.
    • The percentage of Native Americans who had attained an associate’s degree or higher in 2015 was 22 percent, compared to 54 percent for White students.
    • Fifteen percent of Native Americans had attained at least a bachelor’s degree for the same year, compared to 43% percent of White students.
  • Native American students are more likely to attend public versus private institutions of higher education.
    • 79 percent of Native American students attended public two- or four-year institutions in 2013.
  • 78 percent of all students at Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCU) in 2010 were considered Native American, a percentage that has increased annually.
  • 7 percent of all Native American college students attended a TCU in the fall of 2010.
  • Completion rates for Native American students fall below those of their White counterparts.
    • 23 percent of first-time, full-time Native American students attending four-year institutions beginning in 2008 graduated within 4 years, compared to nearly 44 percent for White students.
    • 41 percent of Native American students graduated within 6 years, compared to nearly 63 percent of White students.


  • It is difficult to track accurate college participation rates for Native American students as they are not tracked at all attainment levels.
  • Native American students are more likely to need and receive federal financial assistance than White students.
    • In 2011-12, 85 percent of Native American students received some type of federal grant aid, compared with 69 percent of White students.
    • 62 percent of Native American students take out some kind of federal student loan, compared to 56 percent of White students.
  • Native American students are less likely to be prepared for college as they are more likely to attend high schools that offer little to no access to Advanced Placement or college prep courses. Native American students are also less likely to have family that have attended college.
    • 63 percent of Native American students never talk to a school counselor during eighth grade about classes they should take in high school or about what they want to do after high school.



Sources (Enrollment/Degree Attainment) (Challenges) (Enrollment/Degree Attainment) (Challenges) (Challenges)


Updated December 2016