BOULDER, Colo. – Starting July 1, the Republic of the Marshall Islands is joining the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education as part of its Pacific Island membership, which allows more students access to tuition savings, workforce development, and behavioral health programs.
The WICHE’s membership spans 15 states, two territories, and now, with the Marshall Islands on board, one of the three freely associated states. The Marshall Islands, a sovereign nation in free association with the United States and located in the central Pacific Ocean, is sharing its membership with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam, which joined the WICHE Commission in 2012 and 2016, respectively. Each will be represented on the WICHE Commission and contribute to the overall strategic direction of the organization.
“The Republic of the Marshall Islands is proud to become one of the newest members of WICHE. Our joint membership with the Northern Mariana Islands and Guam serves as a symbol of strong regional cooperation,” said President David Kabua. “This is a marvelous opportunity for our citizens.”
WICHE’s Pacific Island membership is open to all the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States. To assist these unique members, WICHE was recently awarded $174,900 through a Technical Assistance Program Grant from the U.S. Department of Interior, Office of Insular Affairs, to cover the fiscal year 2022 membership dues. While this grant provides financial relief for all the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States, they each must pass the necessary legislation to join WICHE.
This grant is the result of substantial collaboration across the region.
“Achieving higher education should not just be a dream—it must be an attainable goal,” said Guam’s Vice Speaker Tina Rose Muña Barnes. “By participating in WICHE, we are not only investing in our students but the future of each of our respective jurisdictions. Together, we are stronger in achieving this goal.”
WICHE will work closely with the Federated States of Micronesia and Palau, and potentially American Samoa on the required final steps to join, said WICHE President Demarée K. Michelau.
“We share a vision with our Pacific Island members to expand student access and success,” Michelau said. “Each brings a unique perspective and knowledge that will only strengthen the impact and value of postsecondary education across the West and positively impact the lives of students across the region.”
WICHE member states, territories, and freely associated states can participate in its Student Access Programs, including the Western Undergraduate Exchange and the Western Regional Graduate Program, 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 projects, institutional collaborative initiatives, workforce development, behavioral health training and assistance, and technology initiatives.
“I look forward to working closely with my partners in higher education, especially our newest members of the Pacific Islands, to continue the critical work of WICHE to promote access, affordability, and opportunity,” said Susan Anderson, WICHE Commission chair and president/CEO of The CIRI Foundation.
Since 1953, the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) has been strengthening higher education, workforce development, and behavioral health throughout the region. As an interstate compact, WICHE partners with states, territories, and postsecondary institutions to share knowledge, create resources, and develop innovative solutions that address some of our society’s most pressing needs. 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 (specifically the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands).