Away with the SLB - Bartlett
MP wants universities to provide loans for students
Karrie Williams, Gleaner Writer
Western Bureau:Opposition Spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade and member of parliament (MP) for East Central St James, Edmund Bartlett, is calling for local universities to fund tertiary-level education, ultimately nullifying the need for the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB).
Bartlett is also urging the universities to become more proactive in assisting students to choose more economically beneficial careers.
"We need to examine whether or not the tertiary institutions themselves, particularly universities, shouldn't be the ones who actually manage the financing of tertiary [education] … ," Bartlett told The Gleaner.
"The students' revolving-loan scheme is overburdened, and it is a burden on the taxpayers because it is a loan that is charged against the public debt, and when students don't repay the loan, it is the taxpayers who have to pick it up in the end," he added.
Speaking on the issue of high unemployment among tertiary-level graduates, Bartlett said: "Too many students have graduated from universities now and are idle … because the universities are only interested in collecting the fees for the courses they offer, irrespective of what the courses are and, more importantly, the economic value to the students of those areas of discipline after graduation."
According to Bartlett, when universities provide the funding, they will also become more proactive in guiding students towards economically viable careers so they can readily gain employment and repay their debt, thus keeping the universities in operation.
"In some universities in England and in the United States, that's the process: The universities manage the tertiary financing and, in doing so, they guide the students in the critical disciplines and they enable the students to be placed in industries of relevance, therefore giving them a good chance of repaying the loan that they get," he said.
In reference to local universities, Bartlett said: "They ought to know what the disciplines are … that are going to enable their graduates to be able to land good jobs quickly and to repay [their debts]."
Pointing out that each year he spends most of his Constituency Development Fund on tertiary education, and having already spent $2.5 million this year, Bartlett said he believes there are affordable sources available to provide funding to universities.
"I believe that multilateral sources exist that will finance, at very concessionary loan rates, that will make it affordable because the [SLB] now borrows at very low rates.
"The Caribbean Development Bank lends them at two and three per cent, the World Bank provides, and I believe that an arrangement can be structured for the universities to access loans in that manner for the purpose of financing tertiary education," he said.