College aid checks going out

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, Jan. 13, 2012

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Spring semester scholarship checks started going out to colleges and universities on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the president's office.

Erny Zah, spokesman for President Ben Shelly, said checks were being sent via the U.S. Postal Service and FedEx to the financial aid offices of 228 colleges and universities.

Nearly $4.9 million was awarded to 2,060 students, he said.

Last week, the Office of Navajo Nation Scholarships and Financial Assistance announced that financial aid for the spring semester would not be distributed until late January due to a delay in receiving federal funding.

Federal funding is received through the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act.

The delay is due to the failure of Congress to approve a budget for 2012.

In a press release issued Jan. 10, Shelly's office stated that it had been working on a solution to the scholarship funding delay since Jan. 3 but the plan was not finalized until Jan. 9.

"We need to make sure our students have money for spring semester of college," Shelly said in the press release. "We are going to do everything we can to ensure that our Navajo students receive the scholarships they were promised in a timely fashion."

The president's plan coincided with a Jan. 5 directive from the Navajo Nation Council's Naa'bik'iyáti Committee to the controller's office to advance $6 million to the scholarship office for spring semester funding.

The tribal treasury is to be replenished when the federal scholarship money arrives.

The directive also stated that checks be mailed to colleges and universities by Jan. 13.

Committee members took the action after hearing from students at the chapter level and reading about the problem in local newspapers.

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