Sat | Sep 23, 2017

Bailout of students not just economic decision - Holness

Published:Thursday | May 4, 2017 | 5:00 AMJodi-Ann Gilpin

Prime Minister Andrew Holness made an appeal to citizens not to view the Government's decision to fund tertiary students in arrears solely from an economic perspective, but to see the progressive benefits that would accrue in the long run.

The Government last month announced that it would provide $9 million in grants to some final-year students of the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI) who were barred from sitting final-year examinations because of outstanding fees owed to the university. Others will get fast-tracked loans from the Students' Loan Bureau. The education ministry says that 329 final-year students owe the university $45 million.

The prime minister, however, stressed that parents and students should make it their priority to take responsibility for their education and overall development. He was addressing a gathering present for his induction into the UWI Honour Park. The park celebrates past students of the institution who are current or former heads of government.

"The Government recently took a decision to assist students who were unable to pay tuition, or who had balances remaining on their tuition, which would see them being prevented from taking their exams. If you were to look at it from an economic perspective, or, as an economic decision, it is not a good decision," he declared.

"(However), we took a decision because in the long run, it is the right decision," Holness said. "But when we are taking social decisions, the responsibilities are on both sides. Those who have benefited from the decision must pay back and pay forward. So yes, we have assisted, but you must pay forward to assist others who are coming. Give back to society," he said.

 

PICTURE OF UNCERTAINTIES

 

He painted a picture of the uncertainties he encountered while he was a student, encouraging young people not to allow financial constraints to prevent them from pursuing higher education.

"When I was accepted into the UWI, I didn't know where the first cent was coming from. So I came to the UWI on an adventure, and what an adventure it has been!" he said.

"I stand here to say that students who want to pursue higher education should never make the financing an obstacle. There will be a way. There's always a way, and if you search hard enough, you will find a way. But I am being practical. Ttertiary education is very expensive, and with the best will, some students will not be able to afford it," he said.

Holness also suggested that the tertiary education funding model be reviewed so that the Government could increase access to financing for students to pay their own fees instead of providing a tuition subsidy.

jodi-ann.gilpin@gleanerjm.com