FARMINGTON — Navajo Technical College may be on its way to becoming Navajo Technical University.

The college is vying for university status, which might help it establish itself as a more competitive educational institution. Universities are usually larger institutions than colleges and have more academic and athletic programs.

The school would be the first-ever Navajo university, and one of only a few tribal universities in the country.

The new status would warrant several changes.

Navajo Tech would create separate schools. They would include schools of science; arts and humanities; nursing; culinary arts, hospitality and business; applied technology, engineering, math and technology; and Diné studies and education. Each school would have a chairperson.

Navajo Tech also would create an institutional review board, which would review and approve student and faculty research.

"They research to add new discoveries, to add new knowledge," said Navajo Tech President Elmer Guy to tribal council delegates last week.

Students would be able to pursue graduate and master's degrees as well, instead of only associate and bachelor's degrees. The school recently applied to the Higher Learning Commission, which reviews collegiate programs, to offer a master's degree program. Approval of the program is pending.

"We've got everything in the process right now," said Tom Davis, Navajo Tech provost.


In addition, the college is pushing its athletic teams, which include archery, rodeo and cross country, to join the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Most tribal colleges are enrolled only in the inter-tribal athletic programs. The school eventually wants to also have women's and men's basketball teams.

"If you want to develop any area it's important you are competitive," Davis said, referring to the school's academic and athletic programs.

The school enrolls about 1,800 students, about 98 percent of whom are Navajo. It runs on an annual budget of about $18 million, most of it coming from federal funding.

Both the enrollment and the budget ideally would grow, however, if the college became a university.

The goal in creating a university is to get more Navajo students interested in pursuing a higher education.

Only about 7.3 percent of Navajo people have a bachelor's or graduate degree, compared to about 14 percent of Native Americans. Within the general population, about 24 percent of people have a bachelor's or graduate degree.

To move toward the university status that Navajo Tech wants, the college board needs to create a foundation for the university and give it a new name.

If successful, the university also would be open to foreign students and visiting professors.

Jenny Kane can be reached at; 505-564-4636. Follow her on Twitter @Jenny_Kane.