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ASCC's move to join Western Institute of Higher Education will have big benefits for students

Talauega Samaoni Asaeli, Terry Eaton and Dr. Rosevonne Makaiwi Pato


Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — ASCC President Dr Rosevonne Makaiwi Pato told the House of Representatives how important it is for American Samoa to be a part of the Western Institute of Higher Education.

Dr Pato along with the Director of Education, Talauega Samasoni Asaeli and Terry Eaton of the Governor’s office appeared before the House of Representatives HR Committee on July 28, 2023, to clarify the Administration bill that was introduced on July 11, 2023 by Faipule Fetu Fetui.

This bill makes American Samoa a ratifying member of the Western Regional Higher Education Compact and a member of the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education by adding the bill's language as Chapter 22 of the Title 16 of the American Samoa Code Annotated.

Faipule Fiu John Saelua chaired the Education and Scholarship HR Committee on the House bill No. 38-20.

According to Dr Pato, during the hearing, “This legislation is very important because in order for us to be a part of this compact we have to put our name on it.

 “This has been in existence for a long time but American Samoa has not been a part of it.”

Adding that it came to her attention maybe about five years ago, as to why American Samoa is not part of the Western Institute of Higher Education and as they began to explore, she found out it’s because of the law, that they had not been a part of it.

ASCC President said, “it’s been in existence for a long time. Now the Western States as well as territories [can] become part of a Compact that allows those students who are seeking Higher Education on higher levels to receive benefits through this Compact.

"So, whichever states and territory is a member of this, students who go to these particular States within this Compact, are given benefits rather than non-resident tuition and several other benefits where they may be able to attend a specific professional development and training and so on because we are part of this Compact.

“Without this you’d pay non resident tuition and so on.”

As well as  “the important part of this, in order to be a member of this — it costs a lot. It's a hundred thousand to be a member; however the department of interior have put money in to pay for the Pacific Region which I believe only three are part of the Pacific Region. American Samoa would not have to foot a cost because the Department of Interior would take care of the cost of becoming a member."

Chairman Saelua interrupted by saying, “It’s important that there is now a bill.”

Eaton from the Governor’s Office says the governor asked him to look at this.

He said he spoke with the Commissioner from Guam and the President of the Organization in developing and writing this bill.  Adding, the President has done a wonderful job in explaining the benefits of the bill.

“When our students leave here to go seek higher education in any of the Western States or any of the territories, they would receive reduced tuition. It’s not exactly resident tuition. It’s between resident tuition and non-resident tuition. 

“Guam students are currently seeing $1.5million in savings annually; they've saved about $6 million over the cost of the five years they’ve been participating in this compact. Again as far as we know this isn’t going to cost us anything. If it would ever cost anything it would be a reduced rate, even on that point if we ever decide to assume to not receive any benefit, then we are free to withdraw our membership.

“This seems to be a win-win situation at this point. Our students could receive thousands of dollars a year and reduced tuition like the 150 schools in the Western States. At this point it would cost the territory nothing and would also put representatives on the Commission that it’s committed to providing higher education access and an affordable price for our students.”

Furthermore “If we began to see the same results that Guam is seeing where our students are saving millions of dollars a year on education, money can remain with their families, and help to support the family, rather than having to be used to provide for education. I think, as a discontinue, it should turn into a program that the territory would be more than happy to pay $29k a year to be part of, for the savings that would return and the opportunity that are created for otherwise it may not be able to attend University.”

Several faipule then began questioning at the witnesses to fully understand the issue.

Faipule: “If the government of American Samoa gives me a $30k scholarship to Nebraska through the AS scholarship program, would the government of American Samoa get the deduction of $15k ?

Dr. Pato: “Yes, you would get a reduced tuition, and that $30k would go further towards spending more on your tuition.”

Faipule: “If the Scholarship office from this school would give me $30k, so the $15k won’t go to the govt,  but the student?”

 Dr. Pato quickly responded, “Yes, because once the scholarship goes it goes to the school. And if the school deducts the reimbursement it goes to the students.”

Faipule: “Was there anything negative that would impact us?”

Eaton could’t think of anything negative, but said, “The only real change that could take place if you are to decide to stop paying, we have to pick up a small part of the cost, but again at that point if we decide it’s not worth it to the territory we can just renounce the membership.”

Faipule: “If a student can go off island and have a good job,  good income, would it affect the ASCC in any way?”

 Dr. Pato jumped in and said:  “Anytime a student has a choice, it is important that they have a choice.

“However it does open the door to allow them to go straight off from High School to this scholarship. Which is what happens now. So scholarship is their choice, scholarships are controlled because there's a certain amount that goes to High Schools and American Samoa Community College.

 “I believe it will impact ASCC mainly for those who leave ASCC after seeing they have a greater benefit. But for those who go before attending ASCC, but from High school it will provide more options for them.”

Faipule: “What took us so long for this?”

Eaton: “Unfortunately I don’t know the history, but it was the first most important assignment I was given because there was some very big interest from the president of ASCC and Governor on what we could do more to help our students.

 “I would say we need to get this to the Fono as soon as possible so we could help students.”

Faipule: “So how long would it take to come back?”

Eaton assured the Fono that once it's approved the Governor's Office can contact them to let them know it's approved.

“They’ve been following up with me to see how soon this would pass, so they’re very much interested in awarding our membership.”

He added American Samoa would be the last Territory to join in the compact and assures as soon as this bill is passed by the government, they’d contact the Western United States Commission for Higher Education. 

 “They are ready to appoint us as a member and then they have to work with the Governor to appoint a Commissioner to serve on that Commission.”