President Panuelo solicits the U.S. Department of Interior for the FSM’s membership into the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education

FSM Information Services


PALIKIR, Pohnpei—On March 19th, 2021, His Excellency David W. Panuelo—President of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM)—sent a letter to the Honorable Debra Anne Haaland, the newly confirmed and first Native American Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI), requesting the FSM’s membership in the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE). The letter was sent as a response by the Vice Speaker of the U.S. Territory of Guam, the Honorable Tina Muña-Barnes, requesting DOI’s Office of Insular Affairs to consider funding the WICHE annual membership fee for the U.S.-affiliated Pacific Islands, including the FSM, with the purpose of demonstrating the Nation’s enthusiastic endorsement of that request.

The rationale for the FSM’s membership in WICHE is simple: higher education is expensive—some citizens may argue excessively so—and FSM citizens studying abroad often dropout because they are not able to afford it, despite the FSM funding three million dollars ($3,000,000) annually for the FSM National Scholarship program. If the FSM is a member of WICHE, the practical result for the Nation’s students is that an FSM student would qualify for 150% of in-state tuition for eligible undergraduate programs, and in-state tuition for eligible graduate studies, significantly reducing the cost of these degrees.

FSM citizens disproportionately journey to the U.S. Territory of Guam, the U.S. State of Hawaii, the

U.S. State of Washington, and the U.S. State of Oregon to acquire their Bachelors, Masters, and Doctorate degrees. These jurisdictions, along with Alaska, California, Nevada, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, North Dakota, and South Dakota, are WICHE members. Thus, the FSM’s membership in WICHE would mean that an FSM student choosing to study in any of these jurisdictions would qualify for these significantly reduced tuition rates.

In addition to his letter to Secretary Haaland endorsing Guam’s request for OIA to fund the annual WICHE membership for the FSM, President Panuelo also wrote to His Excellency Surangel Whipps Jr., President of the Republic of Palau, His Excellency David Kabua, President of the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Honorable Lemanu Peleti Mauga, Governor of American Samoa, recommending that they, too, join WICHE, noting that such membership is beneficial to students as well as scholarship budgets.

“As a graduate of Eastern Oregon University,” President Panuelo said in a statement, “I am acutely aware of the value in achieving higher education and how it contributes to our Nation-building process. I look forward to building a productive working relationship with Secretary Haaland, and hope that our Nation’s students are able to enjoy the benefit of significantly reduced tuition at more than 160 participating universities and colleges as soon as possible.”

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