CNMI Congressman Vows To Protect Federal Education Funds

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Pell grants, College Access funds in jeopardy under Republican control

By Cherrie Anne E. Villahermosa

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, Dec. 5, 2014) – U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan says he will ensure that federal funding for CNMI education will not be reduced in the incoming Republican-controlled Congress.

He said some grant programs that he sponsored for the CNMI may not be renewed by Republican members but he will protect these from cuts.

Sablan, an Independent who is aligned with the Democratic caucus in the U.S. House, is referring to the College Access Challenge Grant program and Pell grants.

According to Sablan, the College Access Challenge Grant program provided Northern Marianas College $7,645,000 which NMC used to waive application fees, provide scholarships and encourage secondary students to enter college and college students to obtain degrees.

Pell grants, he said, allowed more students to attend college. The average Pell grant for an NMC student is $3,000 to $4,000 and the number of students who receive the grant has almost doubled, from 569 to 1,011.

"That’s almost every full-time undergraduate at NMC and those grants add about $2.7 million to NMC’s annual revenue," Sablan said in an email yesterday.

When the 114th Congress convenes in January, one of the outstanding issues on his to-do list will be reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

"As a member of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, which has jurisdiction over this legislation, I will be making sure that Northern Marianas College and all college students from the Northern Mariana Islands receive the level of federal support available anywhere in our country," he said.

"I think there will be some political will to reauthorize the law, but the Republican majorities in the House and the Senate will generally be of the view that there should be less federal involvement in education and that because of federal deficits there should be less federal money being transferred to states and territories for education or any other purpose," he added.

"For instance the College Access Challenge Grant program may be difficult to renew. I was one of the 22 members of Congress who introduced that legislation back in 2009. The program is especially important in the Northern Marianas where many students come from families that have never sent someone to college and for that reason need additional support and guidance to succeed," Sablan said.

"So I have been very glad to see NMC using the money and to see so many of our students participating but the College Access Challenge Grant is specifically mentioned by some Republicans as a program that should not be renewed."

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