Nov 9, 2012 7:49 PM by Victoria Fregoso-Q2 News
CROW AGENCY - It's considered one of the "best kept secrets" and an "under-funded miracle". Little Big Horn College was established in Crow Agency in 1980 and now enrolls 350 students every semester.
This 2 year accredited college is the reason why many tribal members are successfully completing their education.
"If you take a look at the success that we've had dotted throughout the country, many of those people have gotten their start here," said college president David Yarlott.
A study conducted by Little Big Horn shows students that begin at the tribal college are more likely to obtain their degree.
Only 20 percent of students that go straight to a 4 year university complete the program, while 80 percent who begin at Little Big Horn are successful.
"They know that it's a good start," said Laura Sundheim, college advisor at Hardin High School.
"Their credits will transfer, they have the support system, smaller classes, less cost. Homesickness, you can erase that factor."
At $1,200 a semester, Little Big Horn College has one of the lowest tuition rates in the state.
"If we weren't here at the cost, they wouldn't get an education," Yarlott said. "Many of those students wouldn't have that opportunity."
Affordability isn't the only factor drawing students in, it's the link between education and culture that keeps them connected.
"The cultural component is one of the important aspects that gave me a base foundation and provided me with the tools I needed to go ahead and aspire and to go on," said Grelinda Morrison, science professor at Little Big Horn College.
About 40 percent of Little Big Horn employees were also students at the college, including Grelinda Morrison.
Morrison, now a Science professor, got her associates degree from Little Big Horn College and graduated from the University of Montana with her doctorate degree.
"I think it's a fulfillment that I wanted to do, is come back and teach and work with my own community here. I give them examples of what I've gone through and what I did in previous years."
Having positive role models in the classroom that grew up on the Crow Reservation is key.
Over the past 5 years, the graduation rate at Little Big Horn College has almost doubled, moving from 26 to 50 percent.
College officials believe this gradual climb comes from the institution's constant presence in the community, giving young students something to look forward to.
"I'm very optimistic that this is a generation that basically has no fear," said Janine Pease, Crow Tribe Cabinet Head for Education.
"They're stepping forward. They know that education is a requirement to step into the market place."
As for life after Little Big Horn College, both the tribe and college have programs in place to ensure graduates are successful when they transfer to a university.