Congressman Faleomavaega announced today that he is opposed to the University of Hawaii’s recent decision to raise tuition fees by 150% for Micronesian and Samoan students. In a letter dated June 15, 2006 to Ms. Kitty Lagareta, Chair of the University of Hawaii Board of Regents, Faleomavaega has called upon the University to reconsider its decision.
“This matter was brought to my attention two days ago,” Faleomavaega said, “and I am deeply disappointed that UH is even considering raising the tuition fees of our students. As I pointed out in my letter, Micronesia and American Samoa are neighbors of Hawaii and it is in the highest interest for the people and leaders of Hawaii to establish close social, economic and cultural ties with us.”
“In fact, our nation’s military and strategic interests in the Pacific cannot be underestimated and with recent closings of military bases in Subic Bay and at Clarke Air Force Base in the Philippines, it is obvious that Guam and Micronesia have become critical to our nation’s line of defense in the Pacific Region.”
“American Samoa is also contributing significantly to our nation’s peace. As reported by USA Today, the Iraq war death rate per 1 million population is almost as high for American Samoa as for the 10 highest states combined.”
“While the University of Hawaii may base its decisions on other concerns, I believe these are important and patriotic factors that should be considered as UH weighs its decision. This is why it is disappointing to me that the UH administration believes our students are an added burden to Hawaii’s budgetary allocations. I disagree with the University of Hawaii’s assertion and I believe the Board will need to review the fundamental reasons why our Micronesian and Samoan students years ago were given waivers for not paying out-of-state tuition fees.”
“I believe these waivers were provided because the Board once recognized the deeper meaning in all of this. As I previously stated, the people of Micronesia and American Samoa contribute significantly to the safety and security of the Pacific region which includes Hawaii. In turn, Hawaii has been good to us by playing a critical role in providing educational opportunities for our students and we are appreciative of this and are hopeful that this mutual exchange will continue.”
“As of now, the Micronesian states and American Samoa only have two-year community colleges. Economically, the per capita income of the average wage earner in American Samoa is about $4,300 per annum. I can imagine it is even worse among the Micronesian states. What this simply means is that there is no way parents can afford sending their children to college without the tremendous assistance the State of Hawaii and the Board of Regents have given in its implementation of the tuition waiver program.”
“This said, I believe that to impose a 150% increase in tuition fees for our Micronesian and Samoan students will cause most students to withdraw their enrollment from college because of the financial hardship that will result from such a harsh policy. For this reason, I am hopeful that Board Members will personally visit Micronesia and American Samoa and hold consultations with state leaders and explore other possible options to lessen the burden on the residents of Hawaii of having to supplement the costs of educating our students. In so doing, I am hopeful that a favorable solution will be found,” Congressman Faleomavaega concluded.