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Minister of Finance and Planning, Dr. Omar Davies, has announced that effective September 1, the interest rate on old Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) loans would be reduced to 12 per cent.
The Minister made the announcement when he opened the 2006/07 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives, yesterday (April 27).
Dr. Davies emphasized that government was committed to ensuring that students from the lowest income groups would not be denied access to tertiary education because of cost. It was within this context, he said, that a concessionary loan of $1.7 billion had been negotiated with the deposit taking institutions, for the SLB. This had facilitated the reduction of interest rates on new loans to 12 per cent.
Dr. Davies noted however, that while the SLB continued to improve its services and provide access to funding for tertiary education, he was concerned about the reluctance of many low income families to access resources from the SLB.
Despite this, he said there was a fundamental change in the social backgrounds of students in all the faculties at the University of the West Indies (UWI). Dr. Davies noted that for students from poor families, grants were also available and that as the number of students from low income families increased, there was a need to increase the amount for grants.
Meanwhile, the Finance Minister said that in keeping with the objective to provide increased access to quality tertiary education to as many qualified students as possible, the state currently absorbed 80 per cent of the cost of training. As such, he pointed out, “it is not possible to simultaneously increase access and to increase the level of subsidy. The resources just do not exist”.