State Highlights

U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States

Year joined: 
2012
The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam are the first of the U.S. Pacific Territories and Freely Associated States to join WICHE. American Samoa, the Marshall Islands, the Federated State of Micronesia, and Palau are also eligible to join WICHE and participate in its student exchange programs under the same membership. CNMI joined WICHE in 2012 and Guam joined in 2016. TOGETHER, CNMI AND GUAM'S STUDENTS WHO STUDIED OUT OF STATE SAVED $1.49 MILLION THROUGH WICHE STUDENT EXCHANGE PROGRAMS IN 2017-18
9-fold return on investment
on WICHE dues of $74,500
11-fold return on investment
on WICHE dues of $74,500

Benefits

The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) and Guam are the first of the U.S. Pacific territories and freely associated states to become active in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education's programs and initiatives. The third U.S. Pacific territory, American Samoa, and the three freely associated states - Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, and Palau - are also eligible to participate and as they sign on, they will join CNMI and Guam collectively as the 16th member of WICHE. As part of their membership in WICHE, CNMI and Guam are participating in the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) and the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which allows students from member states and territories to enroll in undergraduate programs in other member states and territories at deep discounts. CNMI joined the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP) in Summer 2017.

WICHE Programs

The Student Exchange Program (SEP) provides students with access to out-of-state higher education options, along with significant tuition savings. Over 42,000 students are enrolled in undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs outside their home states through SEP, saving $403.8 million in 2017-18. In WICHE’s Western Undergraduate Exchange, students pay no more than 150 percent of the receiving school’s resident tuition, substantially less than standard nonresident tuition. In AY 2017-18, CNMI enrolled 87 WUE students and saved $680,000 and Guam enrolled 56 WUE students, saving over $780,000. Through the Western Regional Graduate Program, 1,534 students are enrolled in 435 graduate programs at 60 institutions. CNMI and Guam each enrolled one WRGP student and saved more than $31,000 in AY 2017-18. More than 15,800 professionals have received home state support when enrolled in programs in another Western state through the Professional Student Exchange Program, which CNMI joined in 2017.

Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) Savings

  • 87 CNMI undergraduates paid 150% or less of resident tuition to save more than $680,000
    Top schools: Rio Salado CC (42), Eastern Oregon U. (10), and Western Oregon U. (8)
    Top majors: biology and business administration & management
  • CNMI residents have saved $1.5 million since 2013 on 182 annual tuition bills
  • Northern Marianas College participates in the WUE network and is eligible to enroll WUE students from other WICHE states at the reduced WUE rate.
  • 56 Guam undergraduates paid 150% or less of resident tuition to save almost $781,000
    Top schools: U. of Hawai‘i Manoa (36), and 2 students each at Northern Arizona U., Colorado State U. Fort Collins, U. of Hawai‘i West Oahu, U. of Nevada Las Vegas, New Mexico State U., and Mayville State U.
    Top majors: biology and mechanical engineering
  • Guam residents have saved $1.2 million since 2013 on 86 annual tuition bills
  • The U. of Guam and Guam CC do not currently participate in the WUE network. However, both are eligible to join.

WICHE’s Policy Analysis and Research unit supports better-informed decision-making at the state and territory level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Lumina Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Helmsley Charitable Trusts, the Ford Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, and others.  WICHE policy experts often visit members to present or consult on issues including workforce needs, financial aid policy, governance, and performance funding.

WICHE’s 9th edition of Knocking at the College Doorreleased in December 2016, projects U.S. trends in high school graduate populations through 2032.

WICHE also seeks assistance and advice from policymakers, educators, administrators, and legislators. WICHE’s Legislative Advisory Committee (LAC), composed of legislator-members from each WICHE member—including Sen. Jude Hofschneider of CNMI and Sen. Dennis Rodriguez, Jr. of Guam—has been crucial in this regard. The LAC works to keep the commission’s Executive Committee and staff current on significant legislative issues related to higher education, provides input on WICHE initiatives, and advises staff on a host of issues. WICHE staff also serve the LAC by informing members about emerging policy issues in the West.

Regional Academic Leadership Initiatives

The Northern Marianas College is a member of the Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance), an organization managed by WICHE that bring academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives.

Technology

The WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET) is the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as an informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organization regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education, and includes more than 350 institutions, state and systemwide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, the popular Frontiers blog, issue briefs, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student and faculty success, the Internet of Things, managing e-learning, emerging technologies, broadband and learning innovation, and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health

The behavioral health system in CNMI is operated by the Commonwealth Health Care Corporation through their Community Guidance Center. During FY14, WICHE assisted CNMI in developing their successful Child and Family System of Care Planning Grant application, which was funded in the autumn of 2014 by SAMHSA. In FY16, WICHE will be supporting CNMI planning and training efforts relating to this grant funded effort. The Mental Health Program is also facilitating preliminary planning to build a partnership for Northern Marianas College students to pursue their bachelor of social work degree through the University of Alaska-Fairbanks distance delivered Bachelor of Social Work program. 

Other Initiatives

Interstate Passport is a program that facilitates block transfer of lower-division general education based on learning outcomes and proficiency criteria. It includes learning outcomes for nine knowledge and skill areas developed by faculty at institutions in multiple states as well as an academic progress tracking system for Passport transfer students designed by registrars and institutional researchers. The goal of the Interstate Passport is to eliminate transfer students’ unnecessary repetition of learning previously achieved.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that makes distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and makes it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is not yet a member of W-SARA.