Congressman Faleomavaega today announced that he is responding to a letter to the editor written by a parent who seemed upset that Faleomavaega is not doing enough to provide scholarships for American Samoan students. The letter appeared in the August 19th issue of the Samoa Post and the August 20th issue of the Samoa News newspapers.
“I would like to thank the parent who asked about the ‘one million dollars in scholarships for Pacific Island students.’ I assume the parent was referring to a bill, (H.R. 3062), I introduced recently which provides for an increase in authorization of $500,000 in scholarships for students from South Pacific island nations,” Faleomavaega said.
“The Pacific Island Scholarship Program funded by the United States Congress is part of the foreign assistance program the U.S. provides for Pacific island nations. The purpose of this program is to provide educational opportunities for students from Pacific islands to pursue degree programs at U.S. colleges and universities in fields relevant to development needs of these island nations,” Faleomavaega continued.
“I strongly support this bill that increases educational opportunities for students from our inter-island countries in the Pacific region, and I make no apologies for the program. Currently, Japan, China, New Zealand, Australia and the European Union countries contribute more strongly towards aiding Pacific island countries, with the United States trailing far behind. I feel it is critical that the United States should pay more attention to the social, economic and educational needs of our island nations,” Faleomavaega added.
“Let me stress again that American Samoan students currently qualify for all federal grants, loans, and scholarship awards that are provided through the U.S. Department of Education. These programs provide more than $80 billion a year in grants, loans, and work-study assistance,” Faleomavaega explained.
“The Pell Grant available to students who are U.S. nationals, (i.e. students who were born in American Samoa) attending the American Samoa Community College pays out as much as $4,050 to each student each year, depending on attendance status. This money is for student educational aid only, and is not on a loan basis to be paid back by the student or his/her family later on,” Faleomavaega continued.
“The U.S. Department of Education student aid is the largest source for financial assistance in the country, but it is not the only source. There are numerous other sources of federal aid and scholarships totaling more than $3 billion. Non-federal financial assistance programs and requirements often vary from school to school, and from program to program,” the Congressman said.
“Also available for American Samoa students who are U.S. nationals are the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG), where students can receive between $100 and $4,000 a year, depending on when they apply, the financial need, the funding at the school they are attending, and the policies of the financial aid office at the school,” Faleomavaega elaborated.
“Then there is the Academic Competitiveness Grant where the grant will provide up to $750 for the first year of undergraduate study and up to $1,300 for the second year of undergraduate study to full-time students who are eligible for a Federal Pell Grant and who have successfully completed a rigorous high school program, as determined by the state or local education agency and recognized by the Secretary of Education. Second year students must maintain a cumulative grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.0,” Faleomavaega continued.
“There are also the Federal Perkins Loan Program, the Subsidized and Unsubsidized Strafford Loans Program and even PLUS Loans available to parents of dependent undergraduate students. And then there are Institutional Grants in addition where colleges provide institutional grants to help make up the difference between college costs and what a family can be expected to contribute through income, savings, loans, and student earnings,” Faleomavaega said.
“Other institutional grants, known as merit awards or merit scholarships, are awarded on the basis of academic achievement. Some merit awards are offered only to students whose families demonstrate financial need; others are awarded without regard to a family's finances. Some grants come with special privileges or obligations. I can go on and on, but all it takes is a matter of sitting down and going through each one to see which is the most appropriate and more applicable to the colleges and universities the students want to attend,” the Congressman reiterated.
“I have assigned Ms. Sia Figiel of our District Office to conduct an outreach program with the local DOE to ensure that our students are made aware of the availability of these grants, loans and scholarship opportunities. Additionally, last year, our office established a partnership program with the Feleti Barstow Public Library Computer Lab to hold college and scholarship search programs through the internet with as many high school juniors and seniors to ensure that they qualify for such programs,” Faleomavaega stated.
“Like I’ve said for the past several years, there are federal grants, loans and scholarships available for American Samoan students. And if the parent who wrote the letter to the editor is really serious about looking for grants, loans and scholarship for his child, I suggest he contacts Ms. Figiel at 633-1372 at our office in Utulei for an appointment and see what can be done to assist him about these financial aids programs,” Faleomavaega concluded.