Udall, Heinrich, Flake, McCain Introduce Bill to Reauthorize Navajo Nation’s Diné College

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) joined Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) to introduce the bipartisan Diné College Act. This bill modernizes prior legislation relating to Diné College and reauthorizes the college through 2020.

Diné College was established in 1968 as the first Tribally controlled college in the United States, and it became the first Tribally controlled institution to be accredited as a two-year college in 1976. The college serves students from throughout the 27,000 square mile Navajo Nation, which spans New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Campuses are located in Crownpoint, Shiprock, Window Rock, Chinle, Tuba City and Tsaile. In 2015, Diné College reported an enrollment of more than 1,500 Native American students pursing accredited degrees and certificates. 

"As the oldest tribal college, Diné College offers a quality education rooted in Diné language and culture, which focuses students on developing leadership skills and immerses them in subjects that are critical to getting a good job in the 21st century economy," Udall said. "I'm proud to join Senators Flake, Heinrich and McCain in introducing legislation to reauthorize Diné College. As a member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, I will continue to work to ensure that students throughout Indian Country have strong opportunities to deepen their connection to Native language and culture while getting an excellent education."

“Tribal colleges and universities give Native students the opportunity to thrive with a sense of community that is focused on the future, while preserving traditional culture and values," Heinrich said. "For nearly 30 years, Diné College has offered an environment for Navajo students to earn degrees and certificates in areas important to the economic, political, environmental, and social development of the Navajo Nation. It’s critical for us to work together to ensure every student across Indian Country has the opportunity to receive a good education. This bill is a step toward that effort.”

“Diné College does great work in improving the educational opportunities available to students,” said Flake. “I am pleased to join Sens. McCain, Udall, and Heinrich in introducing legislation to reauthorize this educational institution as it strives to improve the economic and social conditions of the Navajo Nation and its people.”

“Congress must continue its support for Diné College, the first tribally operated college in the United States,” said McCain. “The bill we’ve introduced will further this support for Diné’s roughly 2,000 enrolled students at locations across the reservation. Making higher education available to young people in Indian country is vital, and I’m proud to cosponsor this legislation to support Diné College’s important mission.”

Diné College was first authorized in 1971 under the Navajo Community College Act and was reauthorized several times, most recently through the Navajo Nation Higher Education Act of 2008. This authorization expired in 2014. The Diné College Act reestablishes the 1971 bill and authorizes the college through fiscal year 2020. The bill would also allow the college to conduct a survey and study of capital projects and facility needs, and would authorize $2 million per year for construction funding.