KINGSTON — The Financial Secretary, Dr. Wesley Hughes, says the Jamaican society must find creative ways of addressing the funding challenges of tertiary education.
He said that increasing demand for tertiary education, particularly over the last decade, has presented opportunities for financial institutions and investors to complement the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB), which is experiencing challenges in meeting the demand for loans.
Speaking at Carreras Limited’s 49th annual scholarship awards function at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel, New Kingston, on Wednesday (October 5), Dr. Hughes noted that tertiary enrolment between 2005 and 2010 increased by 40 per cent, moving from just under 49,000 to over 68,000.
He said that data from the Economic and Social Survey of Jamaica (ESSJ) also revealed a near doubling of the number of tertiary loan applications received and approved by the SLB. He pointed out that applications increased from 5,576, totalling over $800 million, in 2005, to just below 10,000, amounting to $1.6 billion, last year. Additionally, he said, the average loan moved from $137,000 in 2005, to approximately $160,000 in 2010.
He noted that disbursements by the SLB represented 59 per cent of the applications it received in 2005, as against 55 per cent in 2010, meaning that the Bureau is “barely satisfying” just over 50 per cent of demand, because it cannot support most of the students seeking resources.
Dr. Hughes said these loans, very often, only cover one aspect of the cost of tertiary education, which is the tuition fees, although there are other fees, including transportation, food and entertainment. He was adamant that, against this background, the society must find creative ways to address these challenges, while identifying potential investment opportunities.
“The society needs more high quality tertiary graduates, if it is going to meet the challenges that are thrown up in national development. So, what I am speaking about here, is an urgent national problem that is going to require thinking beyond just the government. (The) private sector, (and) civil society, must join in this,” Dr. Hughes urged.
He said that, given the reality of very limited fiscal space and the challenging global and local environment, Jamaicans will have to put on their “thinking caps”.
“There is a growing need for this (tertiary education) product. This is a real sign of progress and we should encourage it, even while we build on the quality,” Dr. Hughes asserted.
Over 45 scholarships and bursaries, valued at over $2 million, were presented to students attending Jamaican universities, teacher training and community colleges.
By Douglas Mcintosh, JIS Reporter