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UNM, Navajo Nation strike deal for student housing

More than 100 Navajo students will have affordable access to the housing at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Rainforest through ... should help ensure the building breaks even by 2019, UNM Real Estate Director Tom Neale said.

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Success! — Manage subscriptions Sign up for our Newsletters Play the Gridiron Challenge 41° Share UNM, Navajo Nation strike deal for student housing By Jessica Dyer / Journal Staff Writer Published: Friday, January 12th, 2018 at 1:34pmUpdated: Friday, January 12th, 2018 at 10:03pm ...................................................................................................................................................................President of the Navajo Nation Russell Begaye, left, and Vice President Jonathan Nez celebrate after hanging the Navajo Nation flag in the student lobby of the sixth floor of the UNM Rainforest apartments after the announcement Friday of the partnership between the school and the Navajo Nation for housing of 118 Navajo students(Jim Thompson/Albuquerque Journal)ALBUQUERQUE, N.M— There is no word for rainforest in the Navajo language, but Navajo Nation Vice President Jonathan Nez says it is probably time.More than 100 Navajo students will have affordable access to the housing at the University of New Mexico’s Lobo Rainforest through a new partnership between the tribe and the state’s largest university.Navajo Nation and university leaders on Friday announced the tribe would help up to 118 students cover rent at the apartment-style residence hall at Innovate ABQ in Downtown AlbuquerqueIt’s the first such partnership for the Navajo Nation, which aims to expand the program to other colleges and universities to prevent housing costs from derailing students’ educational goals.AdvertisementContinue readingNavajo students can get scholarships for tuition, but officials say many struggle with living expensesThey report some have resorted to couch surfing or even living in carsKaris Begaye, who spearheaded the project as legal counsel in the Navajo Nation’s Office of the President and Vice President, said housing-related financial hardships compel some to drop out.“We can give them all the scholarships for tuition, but if they don’t have a place to stay or they don’t have a place to study, it makes it very difficult for our students, and some of them have to drop out of school,” she said during a news conference“This is one way to address that so our students don’t have to worry about anythingAll they have to worry about is getting their education, getting their degree and then coming back to the Navajo Nation and helping our people.”Begaye said she is already in discussions with UNM about a more long-term plan to build an entirely new Navajo residence hall.Nez called Friday a celebratory occasion and reason to translate rainforest into the tribal language.“We don’t have a rainforest (on the Navajo Nation),” he joked“We’ve got to get a Navajo term for that.”Currently, 232 UNM students self-identify as Navajos, but officials believe there are likely more enrolled.The agreement with UNM runs through July 31, 2021The tribe will pay the regular rate for each Rainforest space – currently $650The first 19 months’ amount to $1,457,300Students will share some rental costs with the tribe, but the details are still being finalizedThey will occupy the six-story building’s top two floors.Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye touted the Rainforest for its modern amenities – each two-bedroom unit has a kitchen, washer and dryer – and its ability to cultivate ideasA centerpiece of the Innovate ABQ site at Broadway and Central, the building has street-level commercial space with tenants like Sandia National Laboratories and Air Force Research Laboratory.“This environment is an incredible environment,” Russell Begaye said while standing next to a sixth-floor study area“It’s not just about living here, and having a warm place to stay and (having) a nice facility; it’s more about creating ideas, about coming up with ideas.”The Rainforest, which debuted in August, struggled to meet residential occupancy goals in the fall with fewer than 100 students for its 300 spotsThe regents approved $520,000 in reserves to help cover the university’s lease payment this fiscal yearThe Navajo Nation agreement should help ensure the building breaks even by 2019, UNM Real Estate Director Tom Neale said.  Contact the writer. Share Tweet LinkedIn Email Print Subscribe ABQnews Seeker Albuquerque News Education New Mexico News News Suggested Stories: Navajo presidential hopeful picks running mate – Nov 6, 2014 Navajo Nation leaders sign agreement to set priorities for tribe – Jul 21, 2015 Navajo president approves budget after line-item vetoes – Sep 30, 2016 Navajo lawmakers support funding for UNM housing project – Dec 26, 2017 Advertisement Load comments Comments Subscribe to the Journal for only $10. 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