RELEASE: How the President of a College Serving Navajo Nation Is Grappling With the Worst Coronavirus Outbreak in the United States

Washington, D.C. — This week, the 27,000 square miles across Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah that encompass the Navajo Nation became ground zero for the United States’ fight against the coronavirus pandemic—experiencing the highest per-capita infection rate in the country. Today, Center for American Progress is releasing a new column summarizing a recent interview conducted with the President Charles M. Roessel of Diné College, which serves more than 1,500 Navajo Nation students.

The piece explores how students are faring as they and their families get sick and how the historical lack of access to health care, internet, child care, jobs, food, transportation, electricity, and running water imposes unique structural barriers to completing their studies. The column also looks at how the institution is responding to the pandemic—both in terms of how it plans to spend relief funding provided under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act as well as the logistical changes it is making to support students and protect the community’s health. Finally, the piece outlines what Congress should do to better support Native students and students at the nation’s tribal colleges and universities (TCUs).

“America’s brutal mistreatment of tribal communities has been laid bare by the COVID-19 outbreak in Navajo Nation,” said Viviann Anguiano, associate director of Postsecondary Education at CAP. “Students attending TCUs such as Diné are facing some of the greatest challenges in the country as they struggle to access running water and juggle family care responsibilities with academics. Congress’ response should be judicious and make up for the centuries of neglect of tribal communities, institutions, and students.”

Please click here to read “The Navajo Nation’s Diné College Faces the Worst Coronavirus Outbreak in the Country” by Viviann Anguiano.

For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Colin Seeberger at or 202-741-6292.

To find the latest CAP resources on the coronavirus, visit our coronavirus resource page.