The House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday to allow the CNMI Scholarship Office to provide financial assistance to eligible high school students with dual or early enrollment at a postsecondary institution.
Senate Bill 19-81, SS1 also allows financial assistance extended to those already in the workforce aspiring for higher education.
The bill, authored by Sen. Justo Quitugua (Ind-Saipan), is intended to allow CNMI high school students and fulltime employees seeking part-time school enrollment to receive scholarship awards to pay for college, tuition, books, and expenses.
The House, in passing the bill, approved a floor amendment dealing with “residency” requirements.
It was amended so that “person(s) under the age of 18 may also be deemed ‘residents’ if all other criteria is met other than being a registered voter.”
The bill was earlier written to allow use of a parent’s voter registration information to satisfy voter registration requirements for persons who cannot register to vote because they are below the age of 18.
The bill allows financial assistance to be extended to employees in the CNMI who enroll, part-time or full-time, at the Northern Marianas College.
Rep. Blas Jonathan Attao (Ind-Saipan) disagrees with this provision, saying that the Scholarship Board already has this as regulation and the lawmakers should not take away their “flexibility” by turning regulations into law.
“We tie their hands making changes to their own regulations that they see fit. Times change, so needs may change,” he said.
He stressed the scholarship board know what they are doing and dealing with hundreds of recipients.
“With the legislation we are going to only limit employees within the Commonwealth to receive the scholarship program but it didn’t say anything about taking care of the full time students first. Let’s say they do take care of the full time students and then they run out of money? What do you tell the part time students? It doesn’t say anything about who goes first, part time or full time.”
He said he understand that that bill gives them power to set this by regulation
He said in the near future if the CNMI needs more professional positions or technical positions would they have to go back to the law and change the it? He stressed keeping the scholarship board “flexible.”
“We gave them the authority to become an agency outside the governor’s office…in the 18th Legislature and gave them more strength to stand a lone and here we go to commemorate regulations by law, I don’t understand.”
Attao added he understood the bill author’s concerns and respects the legislation, but said there are certain things that lawmakers should leave alone so it could be taken cared of by regulation.