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By Liberty Dones

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Jan. 8) - The Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas government has committed to help Saipan University students get refunds of their tuition and fees amounting to some $5,000 each.

This came after Attorney General Pam Brown and the governor's legal counsel Steve Newman-in behalf of Gov. Juan N. Babauta-met with two visiting Chinese education officials and representatives of the Chinese Economic Development Association yesterday morning to discuss the students' problems with the newly established academic institution.

Governor's press secretary Pete Callaghan said both parties agreed to exert efforts to ensure that the students get their money back.

"This is a high priority for the CNMI," he said.

The Chinese officials, whom he said have been "pleased" with the way the CNMI and the federal authorities handled the situation, expressed willingness to get hold of the SU recruitment agencies in China to ensure student refunds.

The SU student-recruits have said that they paid at least $1,000 each to SU recruiters in China.

SU managed to recruit nearly 100 students from China to enroll with the institution last August. Some of them left as soon as they arrived on Saipan, while some 86 people chose to remain.

Those who remained filed a complaint with both local and federal authorities, leading to the arrest of SU founder Park Soon Kyun by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

The FBI has so far seized some $46,000 under SU's accounts in local banks.

The students accused the institution of fraud as they claimed that SU representatives deceived them into believing that they would study in a state-of-the-art university on Tinian and work at the same time, earning up to $1,500 a month.

The visiting officials from China's Ministry of Education have reportedly been on-island since last week to personally check on the condition of the students.

Their visit came after reports about the students' fate on Saipan were picked up by Chinese media.

The release of student refunds would pave the way for their repatriation.

Shortly after they finished their fall term with SU, the government granted the students temporary work authorizations, allowing them to find work in the CNMI within 30 days.

The students said that most of them could not find work on the island. They reiterated their demand for full refund so they could go back to China.

The students said most of them borrowed money with high interests back in China to enroll with SU. Some of them have incurred debts of $8,000 to $15,000 to get to Saipan.

January 8, 2004

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