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FARMINGTON — With the number of Navajo students seeking help paying college tuition, the tribal entity designated to address these requests is turning to tribal lawmakers to secure more funding.

On Wednesday, the Budget and Finance Committee gave support to legislation that requests $1.6 million in supplemental funding from the Unreserved Undesignated Fund Balance to the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance.

The amount would help supply money for scholarships and financial assistance for fiscal year 2018, which started Oct. 1 and ends on Sept. 30, 2018.

Rose Graham, department manager for the scholarship and financial assistance office, said thousands of Navajo students are enrolled in colleges and up to 15,000 students submit applications for funding each year.

On average, the office awards about half of the requests due to funding availability, Graham said.

In 2016, there were 6,486 students who received assistance and 6,398 students were denied, according to the scholarship and financial assistance office.

This year, assistance was provided to 6,755 students and 6,052 students did not receive financial help, the office reported.

According to Graham, an average of $2,318 was awarded to students, she said adding the $1.6 million supplemental amount could fund up to 690 more students in 2018.

Graham said while federal funding for scholarships has decreased, the tribe has increased its investment by annual set-asides and a portion of the tribe's sales tax.

Members of the Health, Education and Human Services Committee also gave the legislation a "do pass" recommendation in November.

The bill continues to the Naa'bik'íyáti' Committee and to the tribal council, where final authority rests.

Lending support to the measure is the Navajo Nation Board of Education, which passed a resolution on Dec. 13 that called the proposal "as being in the best interest" of Navajo students.

Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at nsmith@daily-times.com.

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