CNMI students studying abroad won't be able to avail of the discounted rates offered by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education following disclosure that the reduced tuition rates will not take effect this spring 2013 semester.
Northern Marianas College president Sharon Y. Hart, Ph.D., told the Board of Regents that the discounted rate for CNMI students will be implemented in April.
The CNMI is the first college in the Pacific Islands and U.S. territories that was accepted by WICHE, a regional, nonprofit organization that works to improve access to higher education and ensure student access through the states' student exchange programs and regional initiatives. Membership in the organization will allow CNMI students to be eligible for reduced tuition rates in 15 member states.
Hart disclosed that Gov. Benigno R. Fitial, who committed to paying for the $125,000 annual membership to the organization, already issued a check to WICHE some two weeks ago.
“The governor did submit a check to WICHE but since the check was not received until some two weeks ago, students for spring 2013 semester would not be able to avail of the WICHE rate,” said Hart.
Once the new rates are applied to CNMI students beginning April, the cost-saving per student in undergraduate studies alone is projected at around $8,000 per year. Graduate students will see a higher saving of about $11,000 or more.
To avail of WICHE benefits, member institutions require proof of residency from students. CNMI citizens can physically attend courses of their choice or they could take programs online.
Hart disclosed that she had met both the NMI Scholarship Office and the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance boards of directors and discussed the benefits of the new membership. She reported that both agencies may look into changing their own policies in the distribution of funds as a result of the WICHE membership, which they expect to generate savings for the government.
Hart assured the NMC board that in weighing the cost-benefits of membership with the organization, WICHE traditionally provides all its members a comprehensive report on each member's performance and participation.
To reduce the annual membership dues, Hart said that she is encouraging other islands to join WICHE so membership costs can be split among these members.
WICHE member states include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming.