Northern Marianas College president Dr. Carmen Fernandez believes duplication of responsibilities would take place once a Northern Marianas Technical Institute is established.
She raised this concern in last week’s public hearing of the Senate Committee on Education, headed by Sen. Justo S. Quitugua (Ind-Saipan).
Quitugua, whose Senate Bill 20-21 aims to establish this technical institute, promised to reconsider all public comments before the committee acts on the bill.
Fernandez said that SB 20-21’s language seems to duplicate NMC’s primary functions and services.
“The bill states that NMTI may grant postsecondary degrees, but it is unclear what those degrees are,” said Fernandez. “The bill is overly broad in some areas and provides no clear explanation or definition of how the functions of the Northern Marianas Trades Institute would be different from those of NMC.”
She added that it would reduce NMC’s limited funds for its programs and create confusion and inefficiency with another public entity that has a similar function.
“These concerns surrounding references to degrees and postsecondary education are matters provided to NMC, whose mandate is derived from the CNMI Constitution. The bill’s intention to promote technical education should be more explicitly defined and differentiated throughout the bill,” said Fernandez.
Furthermore, the proposed transfer of the apprenticeship program from NMC to NMTI is also unnecessary, according to Fernandez.
“One of the primary reasons that the apprenticeship program did not materialize at NMC was that it was never fully funded. The lack of funds from the Legislature should not result in what seems to be a punitive act toward NMC,” said Fernandez.
She recommended to the CNMI Legislature to fund the U.S. Apprenticeship Program at NMC, which was the original plan, rather than repealing the law that created it.
“This approach would achieve the same goals outlined in SB 20-21. Furthermore, we have a new leadership team at NMC to include a new CEO who has committed to launching the program and who has taken concrete steps in this direction. We’re ready to take this on,” said Fernandez.