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Due to Covid-19, SHEFA panel wants new recipients to enroll at NMC

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CITING the islands’ “unprecedented economic situation” and the health risks brought by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Saipan Higher Education Financial Assistance wants to encourage its new recipients to enroll at Northern Marianas College.

In a meeting on Thursday, SHEFA board members also discussed the sustainability of the  scholarship program, which is funded mainly by Saipan’s annual poker machine license fee payments.

SHEFA board members and policy and procedures committee chairwoman Kaelani Demapan said her committee has engaged in several conversations focused on requiring  recipients to start at NMC for their first two years after graduating from high school.

She noted that this issue has been brought up several times even before the Covid-19 pandemic hit the Commonwealth.

Demapan said college students who start at NMC and take the core requirements can transfer their credits to a four-year university in the U.S.

She said while this may seem like limiting the recipients’ college choice, it can also help students with their transition to the university setting in other cities and ultimately allow them to access more scholarship programs.

Many students who started at NMC, moreover, were able to save thousands of dollars by not having to pay for higher  tuitions, dorm fees, and other expenses at off-island universities, Demapan said.

However, she added, there are students who may be pursuing programs that NMC and other Saipan-based institutions do not offer, “so there has been discussion around flexibility to provide exemptions for those instances.”

Demapan said her committee also looked at data that showed a majority of students who attend colleges and universities in the U.S. or elsewhere do not return to the CNMI after they graduate.

Due to travel restrictions in areas considered as Covid-19 hotspots, she said the committee also understands that it would be prudent for students to remain on island.

Demapan said the board is open to hearing comments from the community, either written or oral, at the next scheduled board meeting.

SHEFA has approved 653 applications for Fall 2020, according to a report submitted by administrator Merissa Rasa. Of this number, 562 are on-island students, 281 are off-island and 84 are enrolled online.

Of the 203 new applicants, 168 are high school graduates, the report stated.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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