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Senate Unanimously Passes Rounds, Fischer Legislation to Give Tribal Colleges and Universities a Stronger Voice in Education Funding

WASHINGTON ­– The United States Senate unanimously passed legislation offered by U.S. Senators Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) and Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) that would give Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs) greater input over federal funding discussions that impact them. The National Advisory Council on Indian Education (NACIE) Improvement Act now heads to the U.S. House of Representatives. 

“I am pleased that the NACIE Improvement Act has passed the Senate,” said Rounds. “Leaders of Tribal Colleges and Universities know the needs of their organizations, faculty and students better than anyone else. This legislation will amplify their voice on how to best meet those needs and improve the effectiveness of federal resources.” 

“Tribal Colleges and Universities should not be left out of the conversation when it comes to federal education resources,” said Fischer. “I am glad to see this strong, bipartisan legislation pass the Senate with unanimous support. It’s long past time to ensure that the Departments of Education and Interior hear directly from TCU leaders about their challenges and funding needs.”  

“Tribal Advisory Councils are an integral part of the federal trust responsibility, ensuring that the voices of our Tribal Nations have a formal role in advising the federal government,” said Tesia Zientek, President of the National Indian Education Association. “The National Advisory Council on Indian Education Improvement Act is an important step that will serve to uplift the Nation-to-Nation relationship, securing the future of our Native children. It is time NACIE’s role in the Departments of Education and Interior is empowered and solidified. NIEA applauds the Senate passage of the NACIE Act and now looks towards the House to continue moving this important legislation forward.”

“We are pleased that the NACIE bill has passed the Senate,” said John Phillips, Interim President & CEO of the American Indian Higher Education Consortium. “It is important to include a seat at the table for our Tribal Colleges and Universities. They offer great insight and knowledge not only into the needs of their students and institutions but also of the educational system that serves these students throughout their education journey. Our students will be best served by all tribal educational systems working together to ensure they have the best possible educational opportunities.”

In addition to Rounds and Fischer, the NACIE Improvement Act was introduced by U.S. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M) and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).


The U.S. Department of Education’s (ED) tribal advisory group, the NACIE, advises the Secretaries of Education and Interior on programs serving tribes and their members. The NACIE releases an annual report, but the ED does not have a process for considering the NACIE’s report when developing its budget request. Additionally, the ED’s tribal consultation sessions often do not provide the opportunity for TCU leaders to provide direct input.

The NACIE Improvement Act would address these challenges by:

  • Requiring at least one of the NACIE’s members be the president of a TCU.
  • Requiring the Secretaries of Education and Interior to consider the NACIE’s annual report when preparing their budgets each year.

Click HERE for full bill text.