MARSHALLS OK $25 MILLION CAMPUS UPGRADE

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By Giff Johnson

MAJURO, Marshall Islands (Marianas Variety, Jan. 9) — The Marshall Islands government has agreed to a five-year, US$25 million funding plan to totally rebuild the campus of the College of the Marshall Islands in Majuro.

President Kessai Note announced Thursday that the funding agreement was approved by Cabinet late last week.

The old and deteriorating facilities at the College of the Marshall Islands are a major problem for its United States accreditation, which is up for review late next week by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. The college has been on the brink of losing its accreditation for the past year, as the Western Association of Schools and College’s put the local college into a "show cause" status, the final stage before a school loses its accreditation. More than $3 million in U.S. federal funding — about half of the college’s annual budget — depends on accreditation.

"This (the agreement) is an enormously powerful statement for CMI and its future," said CMI president Wilson Hess. President Note and the government deserve the credit for stepping to the plate at this crucial time for CMI, Hess said.

The government has committed to funding $5 million annually for five years, beginning with fiscal year 2007 that starts on October 1 this year.

But the Marshall Islands will also be assisting with the construction of a new student dormitory that will be built this year, Hess said.

The campus plan that the Marshall Islands government has agreed to fund "will give us facilities probably as good as any in Micronesia," Hess said, adding that it will take CMI five-to-six years to complete the massive campus project.

Putting some muscle behind his words of last month about the need to "get the bulldozers out" and begin construction at CMI, Hess said the plan is to begin next week to demolish a dilapidated building that dates to the early 1960s to clear the area for a new student dormitory.

The current estimated cost of rebuilding a new campus is closer to $40 million — but that is a figure that is subject to revision as CMI planners and Beca International engineers and architects go over each of the plans and look at ways to reduce costs, Hess said.

January 9, 2006

Marianas Variety: www.mvariety.com

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