Minister of Education, Rev. Hon. Ronald Thwaites, said the Ministry will be seeking to attract private capital to fund student loans at the tertiary level.
He informed that currently, the Government spends $10 billion on tertiary education annually, which is almost two per cent of the national budget, and comes “close to supplying” about 80 per cent of the cost of students at the University of the West Indies (UWI) alone.
“There is no question about the continuing commitment of the state to the university (but) the issue is one of partnership and of balance,” the Education Minister said on Monday Feb. 27, at the opening ceremony for the meetings of the UWI’s Technical Advisory Committees on the Mona campus.
He said that one of the challenges for the Government is that there are large numbers of students from inner city areas and from among the working class, who are matriculating to university but do not have the financial resources.
“Can we broaden the definition of collateral so that more persons of limited means, without titles to valuable real estate, can also participate in reasonable banking proposals for the funding of their education?” Rev. Thwaites urged.
He also pointed to the need to hasten the introduction of the credit bureaus so as to enable increased compliance in the repayment of student loans.
The Education Minister, in his remarks, also commented on the possibility of the National Housing Trust (NHT) providing housing for students on the UWI campus.
“Can we, in Jamaica, once again approach the National Housing Trust to target some of their capital investment towards student housing, which would make access to the university campus more possible and less expensive,” the Education Minister stated.
Acting Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Grace McLean, informed that the Technical Advisory Committees, over the next two days, will be deliberating on financial issues that will determine how effectively and efficiently the UWI will be able to deliver its core functions over the next two years.
“As we deliberate, it is integral that we consider the financial challenges which we are facing as a region. These challenges should bring us closer together as we seek to devise creative strategies that will enable us to utilise our recourses more efficiently, while at the same time, staying within our national budget,” she stated.
Mrs. McLean further encouraged the committee members to participate fully and assist each other in developing well-needed solutions that will enable “us to overcome these challenges and to ensure that we are able to provide the service that is required by the people of the Caribbean."
The Technical Advisory Committees, comprised of representatives of contributing governments to the UWI, review, amend and make recommendations on the proposed budget of the institution.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter