By Nora Sovo
Higher-education institutions in the U.S. are known for excessive expenses, which often leave students with large amounts of debt and unwanted stress that can become difficult to manage. According to a study conducted by the Education Data Initiative in 2022, the ultimate cost of a bachelor’s degree can exceed $500,000.
The American Indian College Fund reported that only 15 percent of Native American have a bachelor’s degree, which is less than half the national average. To encourage more Native Americans to pursue their degree through making higher-education more obtainable and economical, it is crucial to have affordable housing programs in place for students.
In effort to raise awareness and provide reliable resources for Tribal students, the Comanche Nation Housing Authority (CNHA) recognized this growing issue early-on and implemented its student housing program. The initiative provides affordable housing to Tribal families of low income and full-time students.
When enrolling in universities or colleges, students are presented with tuition costs, which are the initial fees that must be paid just to attend the school and does not include living expenses. In Oklahoma, the average student attending a public college pays $8,064 in tuition a year in addition to housing, living and other necessary costs.
CNHA’s student housing program offers assistance to students who attend Cameron University, , Platt College or Great Plains Technology Center, and can assist up to 8 students across its eight one-bedroom apartments.
“Being a college student is challenging on its own, but when you are also a first generation and low-income student you are bound to face even more adversity,” said Russell Sossamon, executive director of CNHA. “The program was created as a solution to help Comanche students kickstart their educational journeys by providing a safe and affordable place to call home.”
Since its inception, CNHA has been able to help hundreds of college students through the program. One program recipient in particular, credits CNHA and its initiative for not only getting him through college but for ultimately earning his degree.
“As a first-generation college student, I started my journey homeless and staying on friend’s couches,” said Major Pewenofkit, previous student and recipient of CNHA’s student housing program. “Thanks to CNHA’s student housing resources, they supplied me with the framework and tools I needed to succeed at a time in my life where I was really struggling to figure things out.”
Through the initiative, students are supplied housing and required to pay monthly rent if they have income. Although, each recipient’s program is tailored specifically to their needs and rent is calculated at 20 percent of their annual adjusted income divided by 12.
“My rent was based off my wages, which helped me increase the amount of income I was able to save and spend on other necessities like food,” said Pewenofkit. “CNHA also took care of the apartment’s repairs and maintenance, allowing me to focus on my school work without stress and save more money.”
While students are tenants in CNHA’s provided housing, the team supplies repair and maintenance services to ease college student’s burdens and ensure the units remain safe and reliable. Once a semester ends, students can extend their occupancy by providing proof of full-time enrollment to CNHA before the start of the next semester.
“The program helped me throughout my entire college career and got me to where I am now,” said Pewenofkit. “I truly believe I wouldn’t have gotten my degree without the support and help from CNHA. Its programs like these that change people’s lives forever.”
Students can apply for assistance by contacting Comanche Nation Housing Authority. Those who qualify will be contacted and placed on a waiting list. It is the responsibility of the eligible student to renew their application on an annual basis to remain on the waiting list. To learn more about the student housing program and other CNHA affordable housing initiatives, call 580-357-4956 or visit www.comanchehousing.com.