Holness Says Gov’t Has to Look at Pouring More Funds into SLB


Minister of Education, Hon. Andrew Holness, says the Government may have to consider channeling more funds into the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB), if the institution is to support the growing demand for tertiary education.
Speaking at the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce’s (JCC) monthly meeting at the Knutsford Court Hotel, New Kingston, recently, Mr. Holness pointed out that the demand for student loans has increased “dramatically” within recent years, from 5,000 to 8,000. He added that the administration will have to provide more funding, but that this will have to be done on a different basis from what now applies.
He noted that the universities have expanded, not just in terms of the number of institutions, but also in terms of the number of courses being offered hence the Students’ Loan Bureau finds itself in a peculiar position. He explained that there were also ever increasing demands on the revolving fund, without ever increasing inputs, or injections into the fund.
“So, immediately, you see the problem,.the fund will just collapse if you don’t increase it. The government will have to, in the next fiscal year, reserve a part of the fiscal space it creates, towards providing funding for the SLB. In simple terms, the government will have to reserve part of its planned borrowing for the SLB,” he contended.
Citing the need for the facility to operate as a revolving tertiary fund facility, as it is intended to function, the Minister suggested that consideration would have to be given to re-routing portions of the subventions, which the government currently allocates directly to universities and colleges, to the SLB to facilitate increased funding access, based on the higher number of applications forthcoming.
Mr. Holness said that Government’s subsidy to the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) covers some 80 per cent of its operating costs, and the University of Technology’s (UTech) allocation covers approximately 44 per cent of their costs. Subsidies to other tertiary institutions, including teachers’ colleges and community colleges, cover between 80 and 90 per cent of their budget.
“Because more students are qualifying and we don’t see, in the near future, where we could continue to give all students that are qualifying the existing level of subsidy it means, therefore, that we have to look towards a truly revolving tertiary fund, Mr. Holness.
He expanded that it would mean that the Government will have to put more funds into the SLB directly each year, instead of directing those funds to the universities.
The Minister explained that, in most countries, a credit market is established to facilitate the funding of tertiary education.
“The Government’s role is to create the credit market, so that persons can purchase their tertiary education. So, as long as you qualify (for entry into a tertiary institution), (and) you show your letter of acceptance, there should be a credit window that you can go to, you are loaned the value of the education (that) you seek at the tertiary level and , in future, you pay it back,” he stated.
In light of the developments, Mr. Holness advised that efforts are being made to convene a meeting involving stakeholders from his Ministry, the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service and the SLB to discuss the matter.

JIS Social