Marshall Islands officials are surprised and upset at an announcement by the United States government of a three-year phase-out of funding for college scholarships.
The education minister Dr Hilda Heine says she understood the issue was to go for a final decision at a joint US-Marshall Islands budget consultation in August.
The US Interior's Director of Insular Affairs and Chairman of Joint Economic Management and Financial Accountability Committee, Nikolao Pula, says the phase-out is to strengthen basic education and better prepare Marshall Islands students for their post-secondary studies and careers.
He says no new students can be put onto US scholarship funding, money can only be used for students enrolled in degree programmess, and funds must be provided directly to educational institutions instead of to students.
The US has been providing between 700,000 and 800,000 US dollars a year for the Marshall Islands Scholarship Board.
Funding will be cut to half a million for the upcoming 2012-13 school year, reduced to 300,000 and then 150,000, respectively, in the following two years, and then stopped.