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By Moneth G. Deposa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Oct. 12) – Northern Marianas College, which will submit its progress report to the accrediting commission on Monday, wants to suspend its academic degree and certificate programs on Rota and Tinian starting next year.

[PIR editor’s note: Rota and Tinian are small islands located south of Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands chain.]

The proposal is now being circulated among the college community for comment and review prior to finalizing its submission to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, which placed Northern Marianas College on probation in February.

The college’s working group has reviewed enrollment trends for academic years 2000-2008 on Rota and Tinan and said that data confirmed that enrollment has been decreasing since academic year 2003.

Northern Marianas College said that for operations to continue, students on Tinian and Rota must have timely and equitable access to both academic programs and student support services.

The college acknowledged in its self-study report and during the Western Association of Schools and Colleges team visit that instructional and student support services on Tinian and Rota instructional sites are "not equivalent" to Saipan’s.

The "overriding factor" that limits Northern Marianas College in providing the same services to the Rota and Tinian sites is funding "and attempts to provide ‘equivalent’ services place additional strain on an already overextended college budget and affect the quality of education on not only the two instructional sites, but also on the Saipan campus."

Northern Marianas College said it does not have the financial and human resources to provide equivalent educational opportunities at all three locations.

In its draft report, the college said "concerns" were raised about the proposal to suspend academic course offerings on Rota and Tinian.

It said, "the greatest concern is centered on the needs of students who are currently enrolled at the two sites."

"The college must take the necessary steps to assist students who want to relocate to the Saipan campus to further their education. In addressing their needs, the college must also take into account the concerns raised by the families of students affected by this decision," the draft report stated.

Another concern is the "lack of a systematic study" of Tinian and Rota’s unique community needs.

Northern Marianas College said although it wants to suspend academic degree and certificate programs and services on the two islands, the college intends to continue offering other educational and community service opportunities to them through its community programs and services division.

Northern Marianas College said it also intends to ensure that any services provided to Tinian and Rota will fully meet accreditation requirements.

Northern Marianas College is already informing students, the community and leaders on the two islands about its decision to suspend academic degree and certificate programs there beginning in the spring of 2008.

The final draft was presented for review to the Northern Marianas College board of regents program committee on Oct. 8.

Marianas Variety

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