The performing arts center at the Institute of American Indian Arts (photo by Jason S. Ordaz, courtesy of IAIA)

SANTA FE, NM — The Institute for American Indian Arts (IAIA) recently announced that it would reduce tuition by 10% for the 2020-2021 school year in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement from the school, dated May 20, IAIA President Dr. Robert Martin explained, “promoting student success is essential so that our graduates can return home with the education and skill-sets to strengthen their Indigenous communities.”

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IAIA has about 500 students from across the globe, and is the only contemporary Native arts college in the United States. Compared to many of its peers, tuition is already remarkably low-cost and high-value — with the 10% reduction, rates will go from $2,470 to $2,224 per semester. These costs include those associated with required textbooks, and the school is also offering special assistance to students who face internet connectivity challenges through loaned computers, or financial aid for improved internet or data plans.

This comes as a stark contrast to other universities, many of whom are raising tuition to make up for lost revenue. “A lot of students right now are thinking about taking time off, and we can’t blame them for that, but we’re trying to retain the students we have,” said Scott Whitaker, IAIA’s director of financial aid. Whitaker noted that studies have shown that students who take time off from college oftentimes don’t return. “These are students who have already invested in their education with us, and we want them to not waste that investment, to continue on and get their degree. Our goal is to get them to graduate so they can get out there and make their art and contribute to society.”

Three quarters of IAIA’s student population are Native American, and many of the students live on reservations when they aren’t at school. With rural and Indigenous communities being at such high risk in the pandemic, Whitaker said “it’s safer for them to be coming to school.” And he added, if students need to stay with their families, IAIA wants them to “continue with online classes, not stop their momentum.”