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Tribal College Program

There are 36 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities (also known as “1994s”), designated as land-grant institutions through the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994. For reservation communities, these 1994 land-grant institutions help improve the lives and career opportunities for Native students and the communities at large. 1994 institutions support research, education, and extension programs that enhance local agriculture and food production.

The USDA 1994 Tribal Land-Grant Colleges and Universities Program ensures that tribally controlled colleges and universities, the 1994 land-grant institutions, and the Native American communities served by these schools equitably participate in the USDA workforce as employees and have access to USDA programs, services, and resources. There are 36 1994 institutions (PDF, 177 KB), and each support research, education, and extension programs that enhance local agriculture and food production.

The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program

The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program seeks to increase the number of American Indian and Alaska Native students studying agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, and related disciplines.

The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program combines classroom study with paid work experience that leads to employment at USDA. Through this program, USDA seeks to boost the number of students studying and graduating in food, agriculture, natural resources, and other related fields of study, and help build the pipeline of future agricultural scientists and professionals. The program also strengthens USDA partnerships with 1994 land-grant institutions.

The program provides full tuition, employment, employee benefits, fees, and books each year for up to 4 years to selected students pursuing a bachelor’s degree in agriculture, food science, natural resource science, or a related academic discipline at one of 35 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities. The scholarship may be renewed each year, contingent upon satisfactory academic performance and normal progress toward the bachelor's degree.

Scholars accepted into the program will be eligible for noncompetitive conversion to a permanent appointment with USDA upon successful completion of their degree requirements by the end of the agreement period. (5 CFR 213.3202) (Agricultural Improvement Act of 2018 - Section 12519)

If selected, scholars must commit to at least one year of service to USDA for each year of financial assistance provided. The details of this requirement will be outlined in the service agreement for the scholar, their university, and the USDA sponsoring agency.

The 1994 Tribal Scholar Program 2023 application period is open from February 10 to April 10, 2023.

General Application Procedure:

You will submit your application and agencies will review your applications.

Please consult the USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Applicant Guidebook for detailed instructions on how to create an account and apply. You will be applying through an electronic portal and will need to upload documents. You will need to identify two people and provide their emails to provide recommendations for you.

Preparation - An application package includes an essay, your resume, two letters of recommendation, and your transcripts.

Resume – Submit your current resume.

Essay – Submit an essay answering these questions below with a word count of 500 – 800 words.

  1. What motivates you to consider a career in public service working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture? Include information about your educational and career goals and how this scholarship may assist you.
  2. How did you become interested in studying food, agriculture, and natural resource sciences or another related discipline in college?

Two Letters of Recommendation – You will need to request two people to submit letters of recommendation on your behalf. You will need to provide their email addresses.

One must be from your academic counselor, advisor, or faculty member. The second letter of recommendation should be from a community organization or an employer. Each letter must address your:

  1. Personal strengths.
  2. Leadership qualities and potential.
  3. Academic and extracurricular achievements.
  4. Future academic and career aspirations.

Official Transcript – Submit official college/university transcripts indicating your most recent academic work.

For any questions regarding the 1994 Tribal Scholar Program, please contact:

Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Fellowship

USDA fellowships are available to faculty and staff at 1994 land-grant tribal colleges and universities (TCUs). These fellowships target and address mutual areas of interest between 1994 land-grant TCUs and USDA and provide training about resources and opportunities available at USDA. This uniquely tailored experience brings together 1994 tribal land-grant faculty/staff and federal executives to address the spectrum of challenges faced in the development of a well-prepared American Indian and Alaska Native workforce. In addition, the fellowships offer the opportunity to develop collegial relationships with others at 1994 tribal land-grant colleges and universities and USDA through which collaboration and mutual learning can take place.

This fellowship is available to 1994 TCU faculty and staff working in the areas of agriculture, conservation, natural resource, science, or community development to broaden and deepen their understanding of USDA and to further advance the development of their school’s land-grant function.

The Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Fellowship is currently being revised in consultation with partners and we expect to begin accepting applications again in 2023.

USDA and American Indian Higher Education Consortium Leadership Group

The USDA and American Indian Higher Education Consortium Leadership Group is comprised of an equal number of USDA Mission Area decision-makers and 1994 Land-Grant Institutions president members. The 1994 Land-Grant Institutions make up the American Indian Higher Education Consortium (AIHEC). The leadership group meets face-to-face yearly to ensure that USDA programs and services are accessible to the 1994 Land-Grant Institutions. Further, this group meets to ensure that USDA Mission Area representatives understand the uniqueness of and issues affecting these schools, most of which are tribally-controlled.

Additional Information:

Success Stories


Lawrence Shorty
Program Director
Phone: 202-720-7265

USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program
Phone: 202-720-6350