During a time when the U faced long-standing and mounting pressure from the NCAA to lose Native American imagery or risk sanctions, in 2014 the U signed a five-year memorandum of understanding with the Ute Tribe for use of the Ute name and imagery with the condition of meeting several requirements. One of those requirements is a responsibility to encourage youth from the Ute Tribe to obtain post-secondary education at the U. Under the agreement, the U provides summer youth camps, annual recruitment meetings and help with the application process.
The U’s American Indian Resource Center lists as a goal, among others, “[Making] the University of Utah the “destination” university for American Indian students; locally, regionally and nationally”.
During the Fall 2015 semester, there were 140 enrolled students who identified as “American Indian or Alaska Native”, making up 0.44 percent of the U’s population. This was a slight increase from 0.5 percent in Fall 2014 and a slight decrease from 0.47 percent in Fall 2013, according to statistics published by the U’s Office of Budget and Institutional Analysis.
The census lists the same group making up approximately 1.5 percent of Utah’s population, meaning that American Indian and Alaska Native students are still underrepresented at the U.
The American Indian Resource Center couldn’t be reached when contacted for information about the number of Ute students at the school.
Beyond outreach to youth, there is one other way the U is required under the memorandum of understanding to encourage members of the Ute tribe to enroll at the university — scholarships.
The memorandum stipulates that a permanent fund must be established and maintained to alleviate the financial burdens of attending college for Ute students.
A press release from the U at the time the fund was established quotes Franci Taylor, director of the American Indian Resource Center, as saying “According to student surveys and comments, lack of funding is what a majority of American Indian students list as the most significant barrier to completion of a university degree. Through these scholarships, it is the University’s aim to make college as affordable and accessible to as many bright and motivated students as we can.”
According to that same press release, the scholarship awards $8,000 yearly to full-time students who are members of the Ute Tribe. Applicants are “evaluated on academic merit, leadership, commitment to citizenship, school activities and community engagement”.
The U’s Ute Proud website lists several other scholarships for American Indian students, including some specifically for students pursuing civil engineering degrees, degrees in education, or graduate degrees in law.
These scholarships aim increase the number of American Indian and Native Alaskan students at the U by making tuition more affordable.