The head of the Nevada Indian Commission complained Thursday that the university system has ignored them in developing new admission standards, and said those proposals may prevent even more American Indians from getting a college education.
Richard Harjo said the problem is that with just 1 percent of the Nevada population, American Indians are listed, even in Census data, as "statistically insignificant." He said even though the plans to raise the minimum grades required to get into Nevada's universities have been going on for more than a year, no one has yet contacted Indians to see what the impact on them would be.
"We would like to support you," he said. "We think it's a good thing you're trying to do. We're just not sure it's a good thing for us."
Harjo and commission Executive Director Sherry Rupert urged regents to delay implementation of higher standards for admitting high school graduates to the University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas. The system is planning to put those requirements into effect by 2007.
Harjo said 60 percent of American Indians in Nevada don't graduate high school, "and we don't know why." He asked the board to include them in discussions of proposed standards so that those new rules don't further diminish the chances for Indians to get a college education.
The plea brought an immediate response from Regents Chairman Brett Whipple. who asked Harjo to meet with him and Vice Chancellor Jane Nichols, who is heading the project, immediately following the meeting to discuss the issue.
The regents are planning to raise the minimum grade-point average required to attend UNR or UNLV from 2.5 to 2.75 and, within a couple of years, to 3.0.
Dick Siegel, of the American Civil Liberties Union, said the problem goes well beyond Indians. He said tuition costs are rising at the same time the federal government is pushing to open scholarships once dedicated to blacks, Hispanics and women to all applicants.
Siegel said the legislative mandates to raise the required grade-point average to qualify for the Millennium Scholarship from 3.0 to 3.25 and, eventually, 3.5 will further limit chances for minority and low-income students to attend college.
Whipple said the board will take up those issues.
"We are open to your concerns, and we will discuss it in more depth," he told Harjo.
-- Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at email@example.com or 687-8750.