Thwaites clarifies, says SLB gives preference when funds are inadequate
Jovan Johnson, Gleaner Writer
Education Minister Ronald Thwaites has moved to clarify recent statements regarding a policy decision mandating the Student's Loan Bureau (SLB) to give preferential treatment to applicants pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics, STEM courses.
According to Thwaites, the SLB only grants loans on a preferential basis when funds are inadequate.
He made the assertion in response to calls from the Opposition for clarification to his statements to The Gleaner that applicants from STEM areas are given preference.
Last week, Thwaites said the decision to take this stance was difficult but necessary as doing otherwise with scarce resources, would be irresponsible.
However, Opposition Spokesperson on Education, Senator Kamina Johnson-Smith issued a statement yesterday calling for clarification, noting that equity and access for all students must be ensured.
Speaking on behalf of the Finance Ministry, the education minister said when funds are inadequate, the Government would give priority to students pursuing programmes STEM areas.
He adds that $250 million taken from the HEART Trust skills training institution and given to the cash-strapped SLB, was specifically to finance students enrolled in STEM programmes.
However, Thwaites says SLB approved 90 per cent of its loan applications for the current academic year, and there was no need to grant preferential treatment.
According to the data from the education ministry, of the almost 14,000 loans approved this year, most were to students studying areas in business administration and social sciences followed by the sciences, nursing and medicine.
The education minister says the SLB has adequate funding in place for the upcoming to 2015/2016 academic year.
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