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CWC, tribal college ink transfer deal for students

Sep 13, 2017 By Katie Roenigk, Staff Writer

Two colleges in Fremont County are creating a student transfer agreement.

Central Wyoming College president Brad Tyndall called the new partnership with the Wind River Tribal College "historic," as it is the first articulation agreement between CWC and a tribe from the local reservation.

The Northern Arapaho Business Council chartered the WRTC in 1997. The agreement was finalized Wednesday morning at Wind River Tribal College headquarters in Ethete.

'Thrilled'

Until recently, the WRTC - which is unaccredited - had an articulation agreement with the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, where students officially received their associate's degrees for transfer to the University of Wyoming.

That agreement has since dissolved, leaving the WRTC looking for an accredited two-year institution with which to partner.

"CWC was more than willing to serve in that role - (we were) very thrilled to serve in that role," Kathy Wells, CWC's vice president for academic affairs, said last week.

WRTC president Marlin Spoonhunter said he appreciated CWC's enthusiasm to work with his institution.

"The personnel at CWC, they're all pretty happy and excited," he said Wednesday. "We're really thankful for them."

Accredited

Wells, Tyndall and Spoonhunter have been working since the spring on strategies to better meet the higher education needs of students on the reservation. During those discussions, Wells said the idea to allow WRTC students to earn their associate's degrees through CWC "developed pretty easily."

Under the new articulation agreement, CWC says, WRTC courses that meet the standards of the Higher Learning Commission - the organization through which CWC is accredited - will be included as part of a student's academic record at CWC.

Wells said CWC administrators will review "the integrity of the courses" at the WRTC to ensure they meet those HLC standards. Currently, Spoonhunter said, only the Arapaho studies and general studies degrees have been approved.

In addition, Wells said, CWC now can offer classes at the WRTC location, or share faculty between the tribal college and CWC.

Someday, the two schools may even offer classes at a shared facility.

"We hope that's the direction we're going," Wells said.

Students benefit

Spoonhunter said the agreement with CWC should be more beneficial to reservation students than the former partnership with UW-Oshkosh.

"Students are more likely to later attend CWC, more so than UW-Oshkosh," he said. "It's local, so it's not very far to travel. ... I believe this partnership with CWC will assist us in reaching out to more students."

Louisa Hunkerstorm, CWC's director of institutional effectiveness, characterized the agreement as a "bridge for students." Wells agreed, pointing out that some native students may feel more comfortable starting school on the reservation before transferring to Riverton.

"(They'll transfer) to CWC to finish an associate's degree once they perhaps earn some confidence," she said. "They're a college student doing well and ready to take the next step."

The partnership with CWC also allows WRTC students to earn credits that are viewed as meeting the "gold standard" of accreditation through the HLC from the very beginning of their higher education career, she noted.

Eventually, Wells continued, WRTC students will be eligible for federal financial aid through the new articulation agreement.

"Right now students who are enrolled at the tribal college aren't eligible to receive any kind of federal grants or federal financial aid," she explained. "They're not an institution approved to award that, (but) CWC is."

Once the schools transition from articulation on a course-by-course basis to a formalized contractual agreement - through which students begin course work at WRTC then transfer and become CWC students to complete their degrees - students who start at WRTC will be dually enrolled at CWC and can receive federal financial aid through that institution.

"We are delighted that CWC can provide more support for higher education on the Wind River Indian Reservation," Cory Daly, CWC's vice president of student affairs, said in a press release. "Working together we will be able to provide more access and support to all students."

Wells said the new agreement with the WRTC should lead to a boost in enrollments at CWC by opening up a new pool of student recruits. It will also lead to an increase in American Indian students on the Riverton campus.

"CWC has, out of respect of the operations of the tribal college, not aggressively pursued offerings in multiple locations on the reservation," Wells said. "We have respected their role in serving (the reservation), and we haven't in the past wanted to interfere with that."

Now, she said, CWC will be able to make more of an effort to attract American Indians to the school, and the increased confidence they may feel as a result of starting classes at the WRTC, combined with the validation of their educational work due to HLC accreditation, should increase the likelihood that native enrollees will be successful in meeting their academic goals.

Student success was recently included in the state funding matrix for CWC.

Another part of the strategy to help American Indian students in particular succeed in school will take shape in the form of the Institute of Tribal Learning being developed at CWC.

The ITL and the articulation agreement with the WRTC "germinated independently of each other," Wells said, but they both share "a parallel vision."

"It is a natural blending of a common goal," she said. "The Institute will certainly help support these students ... in academic success but also in leadership and successful student engagement with their community, and their role in how they can give back to the reservation.

Tyndall and Ivan Posey, CWC's tribal education coordinator, presented a vision for the ITL last month during the Native American Education Conference in St. Stephen's, asking for feedback on a list of proposed new activities in the areas of outreach, leadership development and student support, according to CWC.

"We are working on several things to better serve our communities, including the reservation," Tyndall said.

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2017-09-22

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