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Bill seeks to aid Guam students' entry into medical school at affordable tuition



By Pacific Island Times News Staff


Vice Speaker Tina Muña Barnes has proposed a bill that seeks to pave the way for Guam students to attend medical school at affordable tuition rates.


Bill 284-37 leverages Guam’s membership in the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, or WICHE, to officially begin the island’s participation in its Professional Student Exchange Program, or PSEP.


Tina Muna Barnes

Bill 284-37 seeks to appropriate $966,925 for the Guam Community College as the first round of local investment into the program. If enacted, the appropriation would apply in the upcoming academic semester,


Nine students from Guam have already qualified to begin their participation in PSEP, according to the vice speaker's office.


Students participating in PSEP enjoy substantial savings of between $35,700 to $139,800 while enrolled in colleges and universities that are part of the WICHE network.


Last week, the Department of the Interior announced a $339,300 grant to cover the WHICHE membership dues for Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Marshall Islands and Palau, which will provide increased postsecondary opportunities at reduced tuition costs for students from these areas at schools in the WICHE network.


“Three years ago, as a member of the WICHE legislative advisory committee, I brought together leaders from the entire Blue Continent and collectively, we requested DOI to fund the membership dues for the U.S. Pacific territories, as well as the freely associated states," Muña Barnes said.


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“Many on our island want to be involved in the important and understaffed health care sector - but unaffordable tuition for out-of-state students can render this noble dream impossible,” the vice speaker said.


“But in exchange for a local investment into this amazing higher education benefit, our government can bring these well-paid jobs within reach for generations of Gumanians," she added.


The legislation has received bipartisan support, with Sens. Joe San Agustin, Roy Quinata, Frank Blas Jr., Christopher Duenas, and Jesse Lujan signed on as co-sponsors. 


In the 2023-2024 academic year, Guam’s students saved more than $1.5 million through undergraduate and graduate tuition programs offered through WICHE.


“With out-of-state tuition for some health care programs often exceeding resident tuition by over 300 percent, this can be daunting for tomorrow’s health professionals. It may saddle them in debt, force them to leave their community for more lucrative opportunities, or discourage them from pursuing a passion to heal,” the commission has stated about the real-world concerns addressed through PSEP.


The WICHE program, administered on Guam by GCC, is open to local students seeking degrees for ten fields and occupations in the health care industry: dentistry, allopathic medicine, occupational therapy, optometry, osteopathic medicine, pharmacy, physical therapy, physician assistant, podiatry, and veterinary medicine.



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