MORE FUNDS FOR NEEDY STUDENTS
There is to be a marked increase in grants to needy students attending tertiary-level educational institutions.
The 2015-2016 Estimates of Expenditure, which was laid in the House of Representatives last week, indicates that $150 million is to be provided to the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) for distribution as grants to needy students. Some $115 million was provided for this purpose in the 2014-2015 Budget.
The SLB, however, said for the 2014-15 academic year, $128 million will be disbursed for grant-in-aid (GIA). It said approximately 3,000 students are projected to benefit from the GIA for the 2014-15 academic year. It has so far disbursed $123.6 million for the year.
According to the SLB, financial assistance to beneficiaries are made under its specially designed GIA programme. It said the GIA is a specified non-repayable sum offered to eligible applicants to defray the costs of education-related expenses. Only full-time students qualify for GIA.
Beneficiaries are awarded grants through several means, among them being an automatic qualification by application of the means test, which assesses the beneficiary's level of need.
The needy student's grant may also be accessed based on recommendations from tertiary institutions, written requests to the SLB from loan beneficiaries for consideration, and referrals by the appeals committee of SLB.
Students of the University of the West Indies, the University of Technology, and the Northern Caribbean University are approved $50,000 each. Students of community and teachers colleges and other institutions receive $25,000 each.
The SLB said that when a beneficiary is approved for a grant, it sends the total sum to the relevant tertiary institutions or via students' cash cards or bank account. The grant sum is disbursed in two equal payments, one payment per semester. The bureau also said sums are disbursed upon receipt of confirmation of registration of students from the institutions as well as completion of the application process by students.
Based on information supplied by the SLB, 772 fewer persons received grants in the 2013-14 academic year compared with 3,632, which were given in 2012-13. That year, $158.2 million in grants was disbursed.
Some 9,514 needy students have received $411.6 million in grants since 2011-12. The SLB has received 210 letters of request from beneficiaries for GIA consideration for the 2014-15 academic year.