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By Mark-Alexander Pieper

HAGÅTÑA, Guam (August 28, 2002 - Pacific Daily News)---Student financial assistance programs at the University of Guam could face a reduction between $700,000 and $800,000 in fiscal 2003.

Lawmakers told UOG officials at a hearing yesterday the governor's budget proposal plans to reduce the Student Financial Assistance Program to $2.1 million and the Yamashita Educator Corps to $2 million.

In the current fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30, the financial assistance program and the educator corps were funded $2.5 million and $2.4 million, respectively.

Sen. Larry Kasperbauer, R-Dededo, said UOG officials indicated the educator corps will be fine because it will have money from its appropriation, money collected from defaulted student accounts and excess money from the current fiscal year that carries over into fiscal 2003.

The program has excess money because it projected needs based on students taking a 15-credit course load, which is more than what the students took, said Kasperbauer, who has legislative oversight of education and is a candidate for re-election.

Helen Whippy, UOG's senior vice president for academic and student affairs, said the university last year began notifying not only students with delinquent loans but also co-signers on their promissory notes, that payments must be made.

Whippy said each promissory note has two co-signers who are supposed to pay the student's note in case the student fails to pay.

"Often it was just a friend who would sign, not realizing their financial obligation," she said. "When we started notifying the co-signers of defaults, they would talk to the person and say 'Hey, get back in there because I'm not paying this.' So that's helped."

The university collected about $300,000 from accounts in default during the past fiscal year, Whippy said, whereas before, it usually would collect about $200,000 per year.

Whippy could not say how much money is owed to the university, citing problems with a UOG software program.

Kasperbauer said the Legislature wants to make sure the university has adequate money because this could be "the most important time to make financial aid available to our students because of the serious economic situation."

"We are also aware that if we can get accurate figures for the scholarships and loan programs, and they don't need as much as they've been projecting, then maybe we can shift some of that over into the university's operations or the Department of Education, but keep it in education," he said.

Whippy suggested the roughly $400,000 reduction from the educator corps should go to the other financial programs that need it.

Gov. Carl Gutierrez said in his weekly radio address yesterday that the government has to have a three-part approach to its finances in the coming fiscal year.

"We have said repeatedly that three things must happen if this government is to remain solvent: revenue must be increased, expenses cut, and mandates reduced," Gutierrez said.

For additional reports from the Pacific Daily News, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/Pacific Daily News (Guam).

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