Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
FINANCIAL SECRETARY Dr Wesley Hughes has sounded the warning of a looming crisis facing Jamaica in the funding of tertiary education.
Hughes asserted that there was need for a national debate on the funding of tertiary level studies.
He told members of Parliament's Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on Tuesday that he did not want to be dramatic, but noted that serious challenges were ahead.
"With so many people coming out of the secondary system across the country, as it has expanded over the last two decades or so, that you are going to have a problem if we can't assist. People are going to be blocked from going further and this has the potential of creating a very serious social problem," Hughes insisted.
Member of parliament for St James North Western and PAC member, Dr Horace Chang, had raised concern that funding of the Ministry of National Security's crime prevention initiative, the Citizen Security and Justice Programme (CSJP), had dried up.
He said the CSJP came to an end in the last financial year, but noted that some additional funding was pumped into the scholarship programme. However, he said the awards to recipients were significantly reduced and spread over a larger number of communities.
Effect of funding cutback
Chang contended that the cutback in the funding of the CSJP would "damage the expectation" of students who might have been anticipating some assistance under the programme.
The CSJP provides scholarship awards to high-school and tertiary-level students in inner-city communities.
The committee's discussion on the financing of tertiary studies was held against the background of issues raised by Auditor General Pamela Monroe Ellis about a high delinquency rate in the Government's Scholarship and Assistance Programme which is administered by the Ministry of Finance.