PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT

Pacific Islands Development Program/East-West Center
With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies/University of Hawai‘i


CONGRESSMAN SEEKS FUNDS FOR PACIFIC ISLANDERS IN US

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, (Samoa News, March 27) - (BASED ON PRESS RELEASE) - Congressman Faleomavaega announced last week that Senator Inouye has agreed to work with him to set aside US$3 million in the FY2008 Interior Appropriations bill to provide tuition assistance for college students who transfer to the University of Hawai΄i (UH) from their community colleges of American Samoa, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM).

Faleomavaega said the Office of Insular Affairs (OIA) has requested US$16 million in technical assistance funds to serve all the insular areas including American Samoa. He said these funds are discretionary and have had little Congressional oversight.

"To make sure American Samoa's needs as well as the needs of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and FSM are more fully addressed, I have requested that US$3 million be set aside from the technical assistance funds for purposes of waiving out-of-State tuition at UH once our students complete their local community college studies," the congressman said.

"Frankly, I believe this would be a much better use of federal funds than sending graduate students from business schools in the mainland to American Samoa and elsewhere to develop business plans for economies and people they know nothing about as has been the past practice of OIA."

Faleomavaega said that for more than 40 years the University of Hawai΄i (UH) has waived out-of-state tuition for students from American Samoa, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the FSM since they have no access to four-year institutions of higher learning at home.

Last year, however, UH determined that it could no longer afford to do so, given rising costs associated with educating not only these students, but also residents of Hawai΄i.

"While I can appreciate the new policy now in place at the University of Hawai΄i, I also believe it is in the regional and national interest of the U.S. to establish close social, economic, and cultural ties with the people of the Pacific," said Faleomavaega. "Because American Samoa, Palau, the Marshall Islands, and FSM are Hawai΄iís neighbors, I believe it is best for these students to attend UH rather than be enticed to attend schools in foreign countries that in the future may not necessarily be friendly to the U.S."

He said this is why is pleased that Inouye has agreed to support his efforts and has agreed to work with him on this project.

The congressman said the proposal for tuition assistance is not a request for new money but a set aside of US$3 million of the US$16 million in technical assistance funds that OIA has requested in the President's FY08 budget. He said if accepted, he is hopeful OIA and UH will be able to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to administer such a program.

"However, it should be clear that in order to qualify for this special tuition assistance, students must first graduate from their local community college either in American Samoa, Palau, the Marshall Islands, or FSM," he said. "It should also be understood that this is only a proposal but, given the importance of this program, I am hopeful that Congress will support our efforts."

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