by Photo courtesy of UC San Diego

The University of California school system will begin waiving tuition for students of Native American backgrounds. 

This announcement was recently confirmed by the school system over the weekend, marking a huge step towards the federal recognition of Native Americans that are enrolled in their school system. 

The UC system says they are committing themselves to raise recognition involving the historical suffering endured by millions of Native Americans throughout the country's history. 

In a letter sent to UC chancellors, system's president Michael V. Drake said that the waved school tuition will aim specifically for its "California residents who are members of federally recognized Native American, American Indian, and Alaska Native tribes."

The waived tuition will apply to not only undergraduate students, but also enrolled students pursuing a graduate program. 

"The University of California is committed to recognizing and acknowledging historical wrongs endured by Native Americans," Drake said in the statement. "I am hopeful that this new program will benefit our students and continue to position the University of California as the institution of choice for Native American students." 

In an op-ed that is yet to be published, UC professors Randall Akee, Phenocia Bauerle, Paul Ong and Desi Small-Rodriguez, said that they hope other university systems follow this path going forward for its Native American student population. 

"The UC system is leading the way in acknowledging its place and role in educating Indigenous people," they wrote in joint excerpts shared with CNN. "It is our hope that this new (University of California Office of the President) program will be a call to action to other public, land-grant institutions in the US. In the absence of similar programs in other locations, the UC system as a whole will gain a significant advantage in recruiting the best and brightest AIAN students from around the country."

Giovanna Olivares-McLaughin, a UCSD alumni and San Diego native, said this is a monumental move by the school system, a move that will positively impact a population that has been through generations of negative health and social inequalities throughout U.S. history. 

"I think it’s great that the UC system is doing this for Native American students. It will help so many Native American/indigenous students who don’t have the opportunity to go to college due to cost," Giovanna said. "This is a population that is impacted (negatively)by health and social disparities. It’s definitely a step in the right direction even though it’s overdue, in my opinion. This is their land, they deserve that and more." she added. 

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