Navajo Nation scholarship office resumes funding distribution
WINDOW ROCK, Ariz. — The Office of Navajo Nation Scholarship and Financial Assistance Monday resumed issuing scholarships and financial aid to Navajo students attending school during the winter or spring semester.
Late Friday, the scholarship office issued a press release that stated the award process from a $2.5 million grant from the Bureau of Indian Affairs was delayed due to the partial federal government shutdown.
The announcement caused concern and worry from students as the scholarship office and tribal personnel addressed the situation.
The scholarship office announced Monday afternoon that the Navajo Nation government will advance $2.5 million of its own funds to cover the remaining scholarship and financial aid awards.
Rose Graham, department manager for the scholarship office, said the tribe's Office of the Controller will establish a new account for the advanced funding and the amount will return to the tribe when the office receives funding from the BIA.
Mindi Schrum, senior director of financial aid for San Juan College, said Monday the college was working with approximately 428 students regarding the funding.
Employees became aware of the tribal scholarship situation after an employee from the college's Native American Center inquired about the funding on Jan. 10, Schrum said.
The spring semester started Monday, and most students have other forms of financial aid and scholarships in place to start classes and to purchase items such as books, she said.
"They were able to start today. We're definitely not going to see any student not get taken care of. This wasn't something that they could predict that was going to happen," Schrum said.
The scholarship office's release on Friday explained the office was approved on Dec. 21 to receive approximately $2.5 million from the BIA and Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye signed the contract for the amount on Jan. 8.
The signed contract was prepared for submission to the BIA Navajo Region office but due to the federal government shutdown, the regional office is closed and the process for obtaining the amount is at a standstill, the release states.
According to the release, there were 9,127 students who submitted applications to the scholarship office for the winter or spring semester.
Scholarships and financial aid awards were provided to 1,854 students as of Jan. 11.
Funding for those awards were provided by either the tribe, trust accounts, other federal programs or corporate donations, according to the scholarship office.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.