Erica Virtue, Senior Gleaner Writer
The Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) is to consider a recommendation from Parliament's Public Administration and Appropriations Committee (PAAC) to allow non-loan beneficiaries of the lending entity to benefit from grant aid.
The proposal comes a fortnight after the SLB came under fire from the PAAC when, during the debate on the second Supplementary Estimates, it was revealed that the lending institution did not disburse millions in grants to needy students attending tertiary institutions.
Grants which range from a high of $50,000 to a low of $25,000 and payable over two semesters are currently only given to students who are loan beneficiaries of the SLB as current lending guidelines did not allow non-loan beneficiaries to access grants.
SLB Executive Director Dr Monica Brown said the bureau is to undertake a review of the system it uses to identify and determine students in need of grants.
"The means test is being reviewed. We are in dialogue, discussions with the Planning Institute of Jamaica, which is assisting and we have also had discussions with representatives from the Ministry of Labour and Social Security. Basically, the means tests try to identify needs," Brown disclosed.
According to Brown, it was almost a certainty that individuals who are already beneficiaries of the Programme of Advancement through Health and Education will benefit from loans as well as grants.
But committee member Richard Parchment wants it to go further.
"I have students in St Elizabeth who cannot find guarantors, so they cannot benefit from the loan. And for you now to tell me that they cannot benefit from a grant is a double whammy for those people. So I would propose that in reviewing your criteria and your means test, you open it up to all tertiary students whether they are on loan or not," he said. The suggestion found support from other members.
In response, Brown said: "Yes, but I am sure you recognise that although there is a suggestion that there are savings that are not disbursed, I am sure you recognise that funds are limited. There are constraints, re funding. Therefore, not everybody will get a grant."
According to her: "The grant is for the students who are identified to be most in need and the grant is only allocated based on the policy that we are governed by now. The grant is allocated to students who apply for a loan."
Brown said that in some instances, persons who did not apply for a loan may not be in need, so "they don't need a grant".
The SLB will again appear before the PAAC at a later date.