Off-island scholars appeal for release of delayed checks

Posted on Dec 06 2011

Scholars of the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance program continue to appeal for the release of their much delayed scholarship checks, fearing that they may not be able to enroll next semester or be ejected from their apartments due to unpaid bills and other obligations.

SHEFA receives up to 60 calls everyday from scholars—many of whom are from off-island—all pleading for the release of their checks, which have been pending for many months.

The Department of Finance last disbursed checks to SHEFA scholars in August 2011, totaling $148,000.

SHEFA administrator Henry Hofschneider confirmed yesterday that his office is still awaiting word from Finance as to when the next batch of checks will be disbursed.

Records show that close to $1 million in scholarship grants have yet to be disbursed to recipients covering three academic terms.

For the fall 2010 semester, 16 checks are still pending, totaling to $75,200. These are for the Framingham State University students. SHEFA also returned four checks worth $5,600 for some correction for the same semester. For the spring 2011 semester, 12 checks have yet to be released, totaling $13,400. For this fall 2011 academic term, 512 students are still waiting for their checks. The total award for this period is $852,000.

Overall, SHEFA grants that remain pending total $946,200, covering both on-island and off-island scholars.

According to Hofschneider, parents and families of affected scholars have also been expressing frustration over the delayed assistance for their children.

He said he is worried about the situation of many students who may not be able to enroll next semester and those who are facing eviction from their apartments if they don’t get their checks soon. He said many colleges and universities in the U.S. mainland have already started their registration period for the next semester.

“The students are pleading and begging for their checks because they want to use it for enrollment and I truly understand their situation. But I have no choice but to explain to the scholars about the government’s situation,” said Hofschneider.

Checks for SHEFA scholars are sourced from poker fees and license fees collected by the government. Each fiscal year, the Legislature appropriates $3 million for SHEFA programs.

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