The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced two tribal higher education opportunities to train the next generation of agricultural professionals and strengthen ties with tribal higher education institutions. The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program offers a fast-track career path with USDA, and the Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Faculty Fellowship engages tribal college faculty with USDA resources and research. These programs reflect USDA’s commitment to advance equity and remove barriers to service for tribal nations and encourage tribal workforce development. Today’s announcement also marks the 29th anniversary of the day legislation was signed to give tribal colleges land-grant status.

“Tribal land-grant colleges are central to empowering a workforce that better reflects our clients in agriculture, nutrition, food, development — and at USDA,” said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. “USDA is committed to making USDA programs and services more accessible to tribal colleges and universities and their students and faculty.”

New Four-Year Tuition Coverage for Tribal Scholars Program

The USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program provides full tuition, fees, books, a housing stipend, and paid workforce training to any interested and eligible student pursuing degrees in agriculture, food, natural resource sciences, or related academic disciplines at a tribal college or university. New this year, the tuition coverage can follow the student from a two-year associate program at a tribal college or university (TCU) to a four-year bachelor’s degree program (at a TCU or another land-grant institution). When the student has completed the scholarship requirements, including a paid internship, USDA may convert the student to a permanent USDA employee without further competition. Eligible applicants include graduating high school seniors, full-time students currently enrolled at a 1994 land-grant tribal college or university, or recent TCU associate degree graduates. For FY 2024, 27 scholarship slots are available at: Agriculture Research Service, Farm Service Agency, Farm Production and Conservation, Forest Service, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, and Natural Resources Conservation Service. The application deadline is December 1, 2023. Visit the USDA 1994 Tribal Scholars Program or email for further information.

Terra Preta do Indio Tribal Faculty Fellowship Program

This Faculty Fellowship program seeks to strengthen tribal college and university research capacity, and introduce TCU faculty and staff to USDA programs and services. In June 2024, the Faculty Fellows will spend a week in Washington, D.C. to meet with USDA program leads, identify areas for collaboration, and learn more about USDA resources. During a second week, they are placed at a USDA research facility that aligns with their academic research interests. This year’s research collaborations will take place with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Forest Service, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Faculty Fellows return to their institution with new knowledge to benefit their community, cooperative research opportunities, and advance their tribal college land-grant mission of research, education, and extension. The application deadline is December 1, 2023. Learn more at USDA’s Tribal College Program website.

USDA and Tribal Colleges and Universities

There are 36 federally recognized tribal colleges and universities designated as land-grant institutions through the Equity in Educational Land-Grant Status Act of 1994. They are centers of culture, education, and community for tribal nations. USDA works with tribal colleges to help ensure equitable participation in USDA programs and services. These efforts include support for scholarships, internships, fellowships, research, classroom education, and extension (training and informal education with agricultural professionals and local communities).

USDA touches the lives of all Americans each day in many positive ways. In the Biden-Harris Administration, USDA is transforming America’s food system with a greater focus on more resilient local and regional food production and fairer markets for all producers. USDA is dedicated to ensuring access to safe, healthy, and nutritious food in all communities, building new markets and streams of income for farmers and producers. In order to reach these goals, USDA encourages the use of climate-smart food and forestry practices. USDA is making historic investments in infrastructure and clean energy capabilities in rural America and is committed to equity across the Department by removing systemic barriers and building a workforce more representative of America. To learn more, visit