College for Native Americans looks to expand, and for the money to do so.
Congress pays the bills
Since its inception in 1884 Haskell Indian Nations University has been plagued by underfunding. Along with the military academies, Haskell is one of a small number of universities funded almost exclusively by the federal government
1993 budgets appropriated by Congress
Haskell Indian Nations University (891 students)
In a narrow strip of tallgrass wetlands bounded to the north by 31st Street you can hear above the din of truck and car traffic the winds of change rushing through the outer reaches of Haskell Indian Nations University's campus.
Chuck Haines, an instructor in Haskell's department of natural and social science, guides two students along a levee that separates the Haskell-owned wetlands from wetlands owned by Baker University.
Haines points out landmarks for the students: a large pool of water, a tree stump, a fence line. These will be their guides when they map the land, and the maps will guide other students when they select research plots to study the watery ecosystem. The four-year research education program at Haskell is funded by a $160,000 grant from the National Science Foundation.
At a time when Haskell is looking to expand its course offerings to fulfill the promise of its new name -- changed this fall from designation as a junior college -- Haines and his students talk of bachelor's degrees in biology or environmental science.
Indeed, all over the campus of the 109-year-old school for Native Americans, faculty, staff and students look forward to bigger and better times ahead for Haskell.
This fall the university began its first-ever bachelor's degree program, a teacher training program in elementary education.
``We don't plan to stop with just one baccalaureate degree,'' said Haskell President Bob Martin. ``I see eventually Haskell will become a center for Indian education. That would include baccalaureate as well as graduate education.''
For now, fulfillment of that vision remains in its infancy.
Even as the university looks toward a brighter future it suffers from
the growing pains of an institution that can't house all of its students. Although Haskell offers a tuition-free education, plus room and board, to any enrolled member of a federally recognized Indian tribe with a high school diploma, this fall the school has been forced to house some of its 981 registered students in lounges and other public facilities. The school has dormitory space for only 678 students.
``There are some rapid changes taking place and we've felt some stress from that,'' Martin said. ``However, in other ways the change is not occurring as rapidly as we would like.''
Although Martin, who came to Haskell four years ago, would like to see more students enrolling at the university, construction that was to begin in January on a new 300-bed dormitory has been delayed, as have renovations of some of the school's aging residence halls.
The school needs money for a new science building and to start new programs, Martin said, but finding that money is a challenge. The school, funded almost entirely by the U.S. government, has a tiny private endowment fund.
``It's not a popular time to ask for money, with the budget deficits,'' said Gaye L. King, chair of the teacher education program. ``My goals are to begin in January writing proposals seeking grants and corporate money. Those are, to me, the only way we are going to get the money we need.''
The National Science Foundation student research program in Haskell's wetlands is typical of the school's new focus on seeking outside funding for programs that meet the specific needs of Indian tribes -- such as the need for Native American scientists to manage the vast natural resources that Indian tribes control.
Gail Sloan, a U.S. Forest Service liaison based at Haskell, works to promote natural resource careers for Native Americans and to place Haskell graduates in forest service jobs.
Haskell also has a teaching position funded jointly by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Parks Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Geological Survey.
``We have the largest federal agencies in the U.S. all working for Haskell in a coordinated effort,'' Sloan said. ``That's a real switch from when I came on to campus 10 years ago. Haskell is seeing the need to move into partnerships as a way to both survive and thrive.''
The school also has agreements of cooperation with Kansas University, the Sandia National Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., and Martin is negotiating similar agreements with NASA and Harvard University.
``We need to increase the external funding and support that comes to Haskell each year from the private sector, foundations, corporations, private individuals and other federal and state agencies,'' Martin said.
``But we are moving forward, we are making progress. We have a blueprint for where we're going. We exist to meet the needs of Indian people. That's our niche, and that's part of Haskell's vision. That's what makes us unique.''