U.S. DOE Leaves Door Open On Grants To NMC, They’ll Sue If Grants Don’t Come Through. U.S. education officials have left the door open to resolving a threat to cancel Pell and other grants for Northern Marianas College’s 4 year Bachelors Degree program in education. NMC’s President insists the college will sue if the grants end.
NMC President Sharon Hart and other college officials met here for some 90-minutes, with education department Undersecretary Martha Kanter, hoping for a decision on this trip.
But Hart says Kanter wants to first consult with DOE’s attorneys and the Secretary, before making a decision, in about a week or two, on whether NMC should lose its grant status for holding dual accreditation as a two and four-year school, in violation of DOE rules.
NMC is accredited by two commissions, one for community and junior colleges, and one for senior colleges and universities.
Hart drove home the importance of NMC’s 4-year Education Bachelors Degree program, with some 330 students last year, most receiving aid. But she left Kanter no doubt legal action will follow, if DOE revokes NMC’s eligibility for Pell and other grants.
Hart: “We were very firm, with the discussion, that if the department will say ‘no’, we want all of you to know, that we’re not done, that we will take this to different levels. And we said that, that’s why, for example, we had in there, the key players that we did.”
That included the CEO of the American Association of Community Colleges and NMC’s legal counsel and financial officer.
Hart says former Assistant Secretary of Education David Longenecker also argued DOE should hold ‘harmless’ NMC and American Samoa Community College, also caught up in the dispute.
But Dr. Hart says her basic approach with Undersecretary Kanter was not confrontational.
Hart: “One of the things we came right out and asked her is, ‘Please, Dr. Kanter, tells us, as an institution, what have we done wrong?’ We decided to take that approach. Because, in reality, they would have to sit there and answer us, which is what they did. In reality, we haven’t done anything wrong. In reality, the issue has been with their accreditors.”
Hart says if DOE’s accreditors “wrongly” had NMC go through two accreditations, then how can the Department blame NMC, end student financial aid, or demand repayment?
Hart says so-called title IV Federal grants provided $7-million to $8-million in help to nearly 23-hundred students since 2001. And DOE knew all that time, of NMC’s dual accreditation.
Hart argued without the grants, the damage to the Commonwealth’s only college and to the NMI economy could be “catastrophic.”
Hart: “The whole immigration and the contract worker situation, and that pending decision, yet where the college is really expected to be the major player in providing the degrees and especially, at the baccalaureate level. We want to be growing in the baccalaureate level.”
Hart says many of her talking points came from Governor Inos’ letter. Inos argued NMC had “substantially complied with the law” and sought the only accreditation ‘pathway’ available to it.
Hart says DOE wants, and it will be NMC’s goal, to come under a single accreditor. But she says NMC has asked for the “time” to do that, specifically, for 18-months.
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