BOULDER, Colo. – The Federated States of Micronesia has joined the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, allowing more students in the Pacific Islands region access to tuition savings, workforce development, and behavioral health programs.
The Federated States of Micronesia, a sovereign nation in free association with the United States located about 3,200 miles west of Hawai’i, shares its WICHE membership with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands.
“I know firsthand how a world-class education can benefit one’s career and one’s community,” said President David W. Panuelo of the Federated States of Micronesia. “Joining WICHE gives more students access to educational opportunities, and this, in turn, strengthens our economy and workforce. It’s a win-win situation where students now have the opportunity to take actions today for our nation’s prosperity tomorrow.”
Before serving his country through a long political career, Panuelo left his home island of Pohnpei to earn a bachelor’s degree in 1987 from Eastern Oregon University, a participating institution in WICHE’s tuition savings program. WICHE’s growing partnership in the region is thanks in part to substantial collaboration across the Pacific Islands jurisdiction, as well as a grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, which is covering the fiscal year 2022 membership dues.
WICHE’s Pacific Islands membership is open to all the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States after they pass the necessary legislation. This is a historic moment for colleges and universities in the entire West, said WICHE President Demarée K. Michelau.
“Thanks to strong leadership and close collaboration across the region, more aspiring students who wish to pursue higher education now have the opportunity to do so more affordably,” Michelau said.
WICHE’s member states, territories, and freely associated states can participate in its Student Access Programs, including the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE), the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), and – with the required approved funding from the local government – the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), which allow students from those areas to enroll in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs elsewhere in the West and pay reduced tuition. WICHE members also benefit from the full range of other WICHE programs, including policy and research initiatives, institutional collaborations, workforce development, behavioral health training and assistance, and technology initiatives.
In the 2020-21 academic year, Guam residents saved $1.3 million and Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands residents saved $1.35 million through WICHE’s tuition savings programs.
Now more students across the Micronesian region can gain from increased school choice and cost savings, and WICHE partners gain by strengthening their workforce, said Susan Anderson, WICHE Commission chair and president/CEO of The CIRI Foundation.
“By providing access to an affordable education in over 170 colleges and universities across the West,” she said, “WICHE continues its legacy of serving students and that, in turn, serves our communities near and far.”
Since 1953, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education has been strengthening higher education, workforce development, and behavioral health throughout the region. From promoting high-quality, affordable postsecondary education to helping states get the most from their technology investments and addressing behavioral health challenges, WICHE improves lives across the West through innovation, cooperation, resource sharing, and sound public policy. WICHE members include Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawai’i, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, Wyoming, and the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States (the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia).