WICHE program to benefit healthcare students

Posted on Oct 13 2017

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CNMI Scholarship Office administrator Rose Pangelinan meets with Sen. Jude Hofschneider, a Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education commissioner, to discuss plans to move forward with the WICHE Professional Student Exchange Program, which will provide more learning opportunities for aspiring healthcare students. (CONTRIBUTED PHOTO)

Healthcare students in the CNMI are now eligible to pursue a degree in 15 Western U.S. states since the passing of a CNMI public law that enables the CNMI to participate in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education’s Professional Student Exchange Program.

CNMI Public Law 20-08 authorizes the CNMI Scholarship Office to administer the student exchange program, according to Sen. Jude Hofschneider (R-Tinian).

“It has always been the objective to improve services for CSO as well as reach out to as many of our students that are in need of assistance while they are in college,” said Hofschneider. “What better way than to create this legislation and partner with [the CNMI Scholarship Office] to administer the program. In collaboration with CSO, we will be able to closely monitor the students that are enrolled in college and identify the graduates that are ready to return to the CNMI and serve their community.”

WICHE was established to promote the sharing of higher education resources across the Western United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. The CNMI became a member in 2012.

WICHE membership provides discounted access to a wider array of degree programs.

Many students from the CNMI have used the WICHE Western Undergraduate Exchange, which allows students from member states and territories to enroll in undergraduate programs in other member states at a large discount.

WICHE’s Western Regional Graduate Program allows students to enroll in selected graduate programs in other member states and pay the resident tuition rate.

In 2016-2017, more than 50 CNMI undergraduates saved an estimate of $8,900 each and several graduate students saved $14,900 each on tuition from U.S. higher education institutions.

WICHE has helped save CNMI families a total of $475,000, a nearly 700 percent return rate in regards to the CNMI’s WICHE membership share of $72,500.

WICHE’s PSEP is designed to allow eligible students to enroll in selected out-of-state professional healthcare programs and pay reduced tuition because a support fee is paid by the student’s home state.

Eligible CNMI residents are now able to pay reduced tuition for professional healthcare studies in dentistry, medicine, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.

The CNMI requires PSEP graduates to return for service. This will provide a key inducement for aspiring CNMI health professionals to return to the CNMI. 

“WICHE’s Professional Student Exchange Program helps students in remote areas affordably pursue high-demand health care careers at participating colleges and universities—and when these students return home to power their workforce and serve their citizens, their communities reap the benefit,” said WICHE president Joe Garcia. “More than 600 students saved nearly $15 million in tuition last year through PSEP, and I’m excited to welcome the CNMI and its aspiring health care professionals to this program.”

The program will be directed under the CNMI Scholarship Office, which will serve as the administrator of the PSEP scholarships and sole certifying officer for students.

CSO will be responsible for producing the guidelines and promulgate the rules in order to effectively implement this chapter for students whose healthcare program of their choice is not readily available at public educational institutions in the CNMI.

“The new opportunities under WICHE PSEP support the CSO’s latest venture to grow the CNMI’s healthcare workforce. CSO also recently partnered with Washington University in St. Louis School of Medicine to promote success for pre-med students in the CNMI by organizing the Washington University and Mariana Islands Pre-Med Summer Program,” said CNMI Scholarship Office administrator Rose Pangelinan. “The newly implemented WUMI program exists to assist pre-med students from the CNMI prepare for their fields with financial assistance to defray costs. By fully investing in this opportunity for healthcare and pre-med students to participate in programs such as WICHE PSEP and WUMI, the CNMI takes a step closer to its goal of promoting higher education and the return of qualified local healthcare professionals to serve the CNMI.”

CSO will be required to submit a report to the governor and the presiding officers of the Legislature every year, containing the number of participating students in the program; the number of students who have completed their healthcare or medical degree; and the number of graduates who have returned to work in the CNMI.

Funding for the WICHE Professional Student Exchange Program will be available in fiscal year 2018. Applications will be available beginning Nov. 1, 2017. For more information, contact Carmen Sablan at wiche@cnmischolarship.net or (670) 664-4752.

Scholarship applications will be open for submission in spring 2018. Applicants who submitted an application by July 1, 2017, deadline do not need to submit another application. (PR)

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