CNMI College, PSS Mostly Unaffected By Federal Shutdown

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Public school funds already approved prior to budget impasse

By Mark Rabago

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Oct. 3, 2013) – The federal programs of the Northern Marianas College (NMC) and the Public School System (PSS) remain relatively unscathed even as the federal shutdown of the U.S. government entered its second day today.

NMC dean of Student Services Leo Pangelinan explained that, although there may be delays in processing and administering grants, most of the federal student aid programs administered by the college will, in the short term, remain mostly unaffected.

"However, if the shutdown is prolonged to any extended period of time, there may be more significant consequences," added Pangelinan.

"Nonetheless, we are closely monitoring all official communication from the U.S. Department of Education, other federal agencies, and Congressman Kilili’s [Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan] office to ensure that we respond appropriately," he added.

The U.S. Department of Education provides federal financial aid to NMC through Title IV funds, comprising five programs: Pell grant, TEACH grant, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, Federal College Work Study, and Academic Competitiveness Grant.

Since 2001, a total of 2,283 students in the bachelor of science in Education degree program have benefited from these funds.

Forward funding saves the day

Meanwhile, Education Commissioner Dr. Rita Sablan assured public school students and teachers that PSS is not affected by the federal government shutdown.

"The Public School System is not affected by the federal shutdown and that is because all of our federal funds from the U.S. Department of Education are forward funding, meaning that our funds have been approved prior to the budget impasse. So we are OK," she said.

Last fiscal year, PSS received $28.739 million in federal awards. The largest chunk was for the breakfast and lunch program for students. The total allocation for this program in fiscal year 2013 was $10.233 million.

The consolidated grant totaling $8.442 million is the next highest federal award, followed by $4.831 million for food and nutrition services and $1.839 million to operate the PSS Head Start program. For special education part C, PSS was funded $959,094 while part B allocation this fiscal year reached $454,283.

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