The Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance has a huge volume of “inactive files” of scholars totaling 1,496.
SHEFA administrator Merissa S. Rasa said the the CNMI government has invested $12.916 million in financial grants for this close to 1,500 inactive scholars,.
Rasa said that SHEFA records as of April 2014 show that close to 400 tracking letters have been sent to inactive scholars. For April alone, Rasa’s office sent out 71 letters.
“The total number of inactive files is 1,496. So 400 of those were sent tracking letters. For these 1,496 inactive [scholars], the money invested by the government is close to $13 million,” said Rasa, adding that more data needs to be searched to determine exactly how much is owed by these defaulted scholars.
SHEFA policy dictates that within three months of completion of courses, a scholar is required to return to Saipan for employment or to provide services in the private or public sector. If a former recipient decides to remain and work abroad three months after completion or termination of their college studies, the grant assistance converts into a loan. When this happens, the grant recipient must repay SHEFA the amount awarded with interest. Repayment is required of grant recipients who default on their scholarship.
Rasa disclosed that from 2006 to 2014, SHEFA collected a total of $32,462 from defaulted scholars. In April 2014 alone, collection amounted to $9,360.
It was revealed that of the 71 tracking letters sent in April this year, SHEFA received only three responses. Rasa concedes that eliciting responses from defaulted scholars continue to be a challenge.
Saipan Tribune learned that the tracking letters sent to scholars include a breakdown of each term they received an award, the amount of each award, and how many months they are required to work in the CNMI. If they are in default, a billing statement is included with the breakdown of the awards, the total amount owed, and a payment plan.
Meantime, Rasa said that for the spring 2014 semester, the awards disbursed to recipients total $870,500 as of April 24.
For this term, SHEFA received 1,237 applications (305 from new students; 80 from returning students; and 852 from ongoing students). Of this figure, 437 applications were approved as of March 20, while over 430 were denied mostly due to incomplete requirements. Others are pending, including five applications from Northern Marianas Trade Institute students.