Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO.

Submitted by Tesia Zientek

Fort Lewis College, a public liberal arts school located on a mesa overlooking historic Durango, Colorado, provides full tuition waivers for enrolled Native Americans. For students looking for an affordable multicultural college experience and small class sizes, Fort Lewis presents an option.

Originally a military fort-turned-Native American boarding school, Fort Lewis College now offers tuition-free education for qualified Native Americans as a result of a 1911 mandate. For out-of-state students, this saves close to $17,000 per year.

To receive the waiver, any student who is a member of a federally recognized tribe must complete a Certification of Tribal Membership form and provide a Certificate of Indian Blood or a copy of their tribal membership card. Any nontuition-related expenses, including fees, books and room and board, remain the responsibility of the student. However, scholarships such as the Citizen Potawatomi Nation Tribal Scholarship can help offset these costs.

Fort Lewis College’s focus on educating indigenous students has led to the highest Native American student population enrolled at a liberal college at 25.7 percent, according to a 2017 Chronicle of Higher Education article. Also, Fort Lewis has been selected as one of the Top 200 Schools for Native Americans by the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES). With a robust Native American and Indigenous Studies program, its on-campus Native American Center and the Hozhoni Days Powwow, tribal students enjoy a plethora of opportunities to stay involved in their culture.

Citizen Potawatomi Nation tribal member Hailey Eilers transferred from St. Gregory’s University in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to Fort Lewis College this semester to study education.

“The school is on top of a hill that overlooks the Durango valley, and you can see absolutely gorgeous 12,000-foot mountains in the distance,” she said. “It’s a small enough school where there are only 30 people in each class, but there’s still something for everyone to do and take part in here. I’d recommend Fort Lewis to anyone.”

Interested students can apply and learn more at To discuss college options and opportunities for Native American scholarships, Citizen Potawatomi students can contact the CPN Department of Education at or 405-275-3121.