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Sunday, April 20, 2014

Over 1,200 apply for SHEFA grants for spring semester

The Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance program has received a total of 1,235 applications for this spring 2014 semester. Of this total, 303 are new students, 80 are returning, and 852 are ongoing students.

SHEFA administrator Merissa S. Rasa disclosed that the bulk of applications for this new term are from college and university students here and abroad totaling 1,210.

There were also 25 applications filed by students of the Northern Marianas Trade Institute: three for automotive, one for construction, four for culinary arts, five for electrical, eight for hotel and restaurant management, and four for mechanic students.

Of the 1,210 applications from college and university students, 382 are from off-island recipients and 853 are from students enrolled at the Northern Marianas College.

Rasa disclosed that, as of Jan. 24, her office has approved 144 applications and certified a total of $257,200 in financial assistance for them.

The number of denied applications so far is 74 while 634 applications are pending, awaiting supporting documents that are due end of this month.

She disclosed that SHEFA has a remaining budget of about $1.1 million from fiscal year 2013 that will be used for this spring 2014 semester.

SHEFA was created in 2004 and its funding comes from poker license fees collected by the government. Scholarship programs under SHEFA include grant-in-aid, field of study, and incentive awards. For the fiscal year 2014, the program is budgeted at $3 million.

Meantime, Rasa disclosed that as of January, SHEFA has collected a total of $8,157 from its defaulted scholars.

“SHEFA will meet with a few collections agencies and/or get legal advice to aggressively collect from students who are in default. We want those in default to call us, email us, or visit our office and we could work with them and figure out a payment plan,” according to Rasa.

Based on the SHEFA policy and regulation, repayment is required of grant recipients who default on their scholarship by failing to return to the CNMI after graduating from college.

The CNMI government has been spending a substantial amount in financial aid to its scholars here and abroad, totaling $21.291 million in the nine-year span since the program was created in 2004.

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