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Gov. asks Scholarship Board to consider “college acceptance” over GPA for loans

fili@samoanews.com

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga has asked the ASG Student Financial Aid Board, otherwise known as the Scholarship Board, to revisit its current policy which disqualifies any student with a grade point average (GPA) below 3.0 from obtaining a student loan, even when the student has been accepted at an off island college or university.
 
In a letter to the board chairman, the governor says some of the recent American Samoa Community College graduates sought intervention and assistance from him to address the current policy for student loans after being disqualified for not meeting the 3.0 GPA threshold — which is required for the student loan program.
 
“While I do see the merits of this policy, it preempts opportunities to other students who are very keen with burning desires to further their educational capacity,” he wrote to the board chairman, Rev. Elder Vaitautolu Kalepo. “Unfortunately, students with GPA less than 3.0 are automatically disqualified from the program, although they have been accepted from accredited off-island institutions of higher leaning.”
 
Based on the foregoing reason, Lolo recommended "leniency” for students who can produce documents verifying acceptance to attend off-island accredited colleges and universities.
 
He said these students should be allowed to participate in the student loan program as these funds will be recouped whether or not the student is successful in finishing his/her bachelor’s degree.
 
The governor shared with the board chairman information from last year’s meeting of the Western Governors’ Association Education Symposium on linking education to the economy. “I was alarmed by the statistics that... 75% of the available jobs require a bachelor’s degree,” he pointed out.
 
“If we don’t provide the opportunity to our students  to achieve this goal, our future unemployment rate will drastically climb and our social problems will rise as well,” he concluded.
 
This same letter surfaced during last Wednesday’s Senate Government Operations Committee hearing when the the board was called by committee chairman Sen. Galeai Tu’ufuli, who wanted the board to address issues that have come to the Senate’s attention.
 
Galeai recalled that six ASCC students had contacted him about the board’s policy on the GPA requirement for student loans. He said he referred the students to the governor and wanted to know from the board if anything has been done to help these students.
 
Board secretary Sonny Thompson said they had received the governor’s letter, which will be the subject of discussion when the board meets this week. Galeai responded that the governor spoke of the scholarship student loan program and its importance during his State of the Territory speech last month before the Fono.
 
In his address, the governor said the board will be directed to revise the eligibility policies and procedures for the loan program and it’s recommended that an official acceptance from an accredited institution of higher learning be the dominant eligibility criteria, and not the established 3.0 grade point average.
 
“It is important for us to provide every opportunity for our high school graduates to attend college to earn at least their Bachelor degree because the number of available jobs requiring bachelor’s degrees is rising exponentially.” Lolo said.
 
At the committee hearing, Galeai told the board that their “ sole consideration” for the student loan program should be the student’s financial status or “financial needs”. He said the loan program is an assurance that some local graduates will be able to go on to college.
 
Local statute states in part that “student loans [are] awarded solely on the basis of a student’s financial need. Loans may be paid directly to the student, or to the educational institution, or both, at the discretion of the Board.”



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