College of Micronesia -FSM

Federated States of Micronesia
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April 29, 2009- Palikir, Pohnpei


To:          All Concerned
From:      President
Subject:   President’s Update #327
HTM Students Visit Japan

After one year of fund raising and organizing, eight (8) Hospitality and Tourism Management (HTM) students from the college went to Japan under the 2009 Experiential Learning program. The trip was the sixth for the students under the program where they are exposed to tourism and hotel-related work experiences and travels. This is an important element in the overall educational experience for HTM students.

The theme for this year’s trip to Japan was “Seeking New Models for Sustainable FSM Tourism Development”.  The trip centered on the city of Tokyo and the many cultural opportunities and parks that are located within the city. Tokyo’s parks are known for being well kept and managed as key resources for the crowds of the city. Recreation opportunities within the complexities of the city usually take place in parks and the park system is designed to be sustainable. 

The student group arrive in Narita Japan on Sunday, April 5, 2009, and made its way by train to Ueno Park to observe the cultural evens surrounding the full bloom Sakura flower week.  The group then made its way by train to Saitama where they checked into a Japanese home-style hostel.  Each day through departure on April 12th was centered on visiting parks, shrines, temples, the Ueno Park Zoo and the world famous Tskiji fish market.  There were many other activities during the week including a daily academic hour and daily debrief round table discussion related to the students’ experiences.

The eight student participants are preparing a final report and a slide presentation to be offered at both National and Pohnpei campuses for students, faculty and staff before the end of the semester.

The trip was made possible through hard work by the students and through the generous financial support of many supporters including the College of Micronesia-FSM.  Thanks should go out to Pohnpei Campus Director Penny Weilbacher, Yap Campus Director Lourdes Roboman and Vice President for Instructional Affairs Jean Thoulag for their support. Professor Howard Rice is the coordinator of the HTM program.

Yolanda Joab Visits Japan as Winner of Contest

Ms. Yolanda Joab from Pohnpei State won the Second Annual COM-FSM Speech Contest sponsored by Dr. Toshi Inoue Toastmaster Club of Tokyo and English Speaking Union of Japan.  The trip to Japan is part of the winning prize. Ms. Joab and chaperon Robert Jonas of Pohnpei Campus, traveled to Tokyo on April 6-12, 2009, where they participated on a number of activities such as meeting with Tokyo University students and learning about their cultures.  The activities also helped students from both countries to improve on their speech skills, among other things. 

The expenses for the trip were paid for by Dr. Inoue Toastmaster Club and English Speaking Union of Japan.  Dr. Inoue also contributed $1000 for the next Speech Contest at the College.

President James wishes to thank Dr. Inoue, Toastmaster Club of Tokyo and English Speaking Union of Japan for their generosity to the College.

College Expects Potential Spring Graduates at 119

The COM-FSM has completed the initial evaluations of the candidates for Spring Semester 2009 graduation and determined the potential graduates from the national and state campuses as follows:

Site:                                         Number of Candidates
Chuuk Campus                                               8
Kosrae Campus                                               7
National Campus                                            90
Pohnpei Campus                                             6
Yap Campus                                                   8

The actual numbers will be determined after the final examinations.

College Employees Upset About New FSM Social Security Law

A growing number of college employees continue to express their indignation with the new FSM social security law and asked the College administration to list all the new changes and outline their impacts. With help from the College’s legal counsel, the following list was drawn up:

  1. Employers and collection.  There were changes made in the definitions section of the law.  One new definition was the definition of employer.  This provision, and other enforcement provisions, will have no effect on COM-FSM, but they were passed to increase Social Security’s ability to force employers to pay their taxes. These provisions are in section 603(9) and 605.
  2. The amendments also allowed Social Security to get writs of garnishment against employers (states and municipalitiwho faies) l to pay their social security taxes. Section 607.

  1. Rates.  A prior amendment increased the income per quarter that the employer will pay taxes on.  The quarterly taxable wage will increase to $7,000 on January 1, 2013, $8,000 on Social Security Amendments January 1, 2018, $9,000 on January 1, 2023, and $10,000 on January 1, 2018. 
  2. The current amendment though changed the rates that the employer will pay in taxes both for its share, and for the employee’s share that is withheld.  For wages paid after October 1, 2009, the rate will go up to 7%, and after January 1, 2013, the rate will go up to 7.5%.  This appears in Sections 901 and 902.

  3. Fully Insured Workers.  As of January 1, 2010, workers will need at least 50 quarters to qualify for retirement.  The current standard is 38 quarters.  In addition employees need to contribute a minimum of $2,500 to the FSM Social Security system in taxes.  This contribution can be made by a payment by the work if he/she has paid enough into the system.  This appears in section 603(13)(d).
  1. Disability.  As of January 1, 2010, workers will need at least 45 quarters to qualify for disability benefits.  Additionally, such worker must also be currently insured, which means they have worked 20 out of 25 of the last 25 quarters.  This appears in sections 603(13)(a) and (d), and 803A(1).
  1. Foreign workers. This provision will probably be the most controversial of all the   amendments.  Payment to citizens of the U.S., Marshall Islands and Palau are not affected.  They will receive benefits similar to FSM citizens.  In fact, such citizens previously were at a disadvantage, since they did not receive a payout of Social Security contributions made here if they stayed short term, as other nationalities did.  This appears in Section (809)(a).
  2. The bill became law in March 2009.  For purposes of the amendments other foreign nationals used to receive their tax contributions, (their own not their employers), six months after they stopped residing in the FSM.  For anyone who applied prior to March 2009, they will still receive these contributions. This appears in Section (809)(c) and (d).

    Under the new law a foreign national, including those currently working here, can only receive a lump sum payment of their contributions, 1) if they are fully insured, and 2) after death or reaching age of 60.

    This amendment applies to those who are working here now, so that if someone worked here for ten years and left in January 2009, and applied for his refund in Social Security Amendments in January 2009 he would get it.  If another worker worked here for ten years, but is still working, and leaves in May 2009, he would not get a refund, unless he/she qualified by being fully insured and age 60.

  1. Benefit payments to FSM Workers.  Benefit payment schedules were also changed.  A worker can still retire at age 60; however the retiree, if fully insured will only receive half his normal benefits, until age 65.  To compensate for this loss, a worker is allowed to work at any job, and his wages will not reduce the benefits received.  This section only applies to those who turn 60 after January 1, 2010.  This appears in Sections 603(7) and 804(c).

Disability and death benefits are not affected by this provision.

The following is a Comparison of Average Salaries of Full-time Instructional Staff Equated to 9-Month Contracts at Community Colleges in the Region:

Institution                                           Number of full-time instructors          Average Sal.

College of Micronesia-FSM                                        110                             $21,777
Palau Community College                                           36                               14,950
Northern Marianas College                                          35                               41,598
College of Marshall Islands                                          43                               26,111
American Samoa Community College                           62                               28,097

The above regional community colleges are all accredited by WASC.  Two of these institutions were sanctioned by the commission for many years. One of them was rehabilitated recently and another continues on sanction. The two with the lowest based salaries are currently in good standings with the commission. The institution with the lowest salary base for fulltime instructional staff has never been placed on any kind of sanction by WASC.

Federal Update on Pell Grant

The College will be implementing the Year-Round Pell Grant this summer.  Students who have used up their Pell Grant in Fall 2008 and Spring 2009 can tap their 2009-2010 Pell award to cover Summer 2009.  This new policy also allows students to be eligible for up to 200% of the regular Pell award.  In the past, students are only eligible for up to $5,350.00 but now they are eligible for up to $10,700.00.  Students are encouraged to file 2009-2010 FAFSA instead of 2008-2009 FAFSA.

Financial Aid Office has been conducting a series of FAFSA on-line workshops to assist students to file 2009-2010 applications.