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UH reaches out to stranded Argosy students in American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — The sudden departure of Argosy University from the territory has left many students stunned, and wondering where to turn. With their education plans suddenly put on hold, it has been a trying time for anyone involved with the Argosy promise of a higher degree.

According to Dr. Deborah Zuercher, a longtime friend of the territory who is a tenured Professor at the College of Education at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, “the University of Hawaii feels compassion for the former Argosy candidates,” and may be able to offer a way up and out… a way to complete their education goals without starting over completely.

Dr. Zuercher told Samoa News that she empathizes with Argosy students’ frustration. “They have earnestly invested time and money towards a degree program that just vanished without warning.”

Reaching out to those stranded students, Dr. Zuercher will be in American Samoa to collect Argosy transcripts and meet with the candidates on Thursday, March 21 (tomorrow) at 4:30pm at Samoana High School.

She says, “The next step is to align Argosy and UH courses and create a potential crosswalk from Argosy to UH programs.”

Dr. Zuercher hopes to reassure these students, adding that “UH will be creative and compassionate in reviewing Argosy coursework. This is an opportunity to solve the ASDOE SPED and ECE teacher education compliance requirements, meet overall teacher shortages, prepare government workers and provide a pathway for former Argosy candidates to earn a nationally accredited undergraduate or graduate education degree on-island.”

She reminded Samoa News that “UH is up and running with the capacity to add course sections for former Argosy candidates and new interested candidates in general in the SPED and ECE dual prep bachelor degree programs, as well as the 30-credit PACMED Master of Education Program, and this can happen as early as this summer, 2019.”

Notably, Dr. Zuercher said that “the 23 former Argosy EdD doctoral candidates are also invited to submit transcripts for individual review to the University of Hawaii`i.”


Since 1980, the University of Hawaii, the American Samoa Community College AA degree program and the American Samoa Department of Education (ASDOE) have had a partnership of training and mentoring in-service teachers through a project called the Territorial Teacher Training Assistance Program (TTTAP).

For years, the TTTAP has been an excellent way for teachers to get a high quality, nationally- accredited Bachelors of Education degree on-island in American Samoa.

The program has evolved through the years to include double major or Dual Prep Certification in Special Education (SPED) and Early Childhood Education (ECE). Both SPED and ECE serve vulnerable student populations with strict US federal teacher training compliance requirements that are met through the University of Hawaii bachelor degree programs.

For example, The University of Hawaii concurrently runs a Child Development Association (CDA) equivalent certification program for Head Start ECE teachers and teacher-aides working in the ASDOE ECE centers. This program is also through the partnership with ASDOE ECE and the US Federal Head Start Program. ECE Director Milaneta Tinitali has provided excellent leadership and has been awarded Head Start grants to support her quality ECE Head Start Centers.

Similarly, there is a SPED teacher preparation proposal under review by the ASDOE SPED Department to start a new Bachelor of Education in Elementary/Special Education degree program with an additional certificate in Severe Disability and Assessment Training. Each student eligible for special education is protected under the Federal Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA).

It is important to note that teachers in Manu`a also have access to the UH College of Education undergraduate and graduate degrees without needing to leave their Manu`a classrooms or island homes.

“There are approximately 15 graduate level Manu'a candidates that qualify for the Master of Education PACMED program with an emphasis on STEM education in Manu`a, and these 15 are hoping for tuition support from ASDOE,” said Zuercher.

She noted that the first Manu'a Bachelor of Education Cohort successfully graduated from the University of Hawaii`i in 2018 and they are now serving as positive agents of change in their Manu`a schools.