Daraine Luton, Senior Staff Reporter
SOLVING THE the problem of financing tertiary education has been described by Finance Minister Dr Peter Phillips as "one of the most urgent challenges facing Jamaica in its next 50 years".
The finance minister made the comment yesterday at a Jamaica 50 PetroCaribe scholarship awards ceremony at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.
"In the very near future, we are going to have to consider and redesign a programme that will effectively support tertiary education and the financing and tertiary institution into the future," Phillips said.
The minister said the design of such a programme will have to include contribution for all stakeholders including families, students, the Church, the universities and private financing institutions.
Phillips also noted there was a need to address the crisis of viability facing the Students' Loan Bureau.
"It cannot survive as a revolving fund with a 30 per cent delinquency ratio," Phillips observed.
most needed profession
In the meantime, Ronald Thwaites, the minister of education, has said in an era of scarce resources, the State has to first contribute to those profession which were most needed by the society.
"This is a new day as far as funding and understanding tertiary education is concerned. It is a marvellous moment because more and more of our young people from every walk of life are doing so well as to matriculate into university. They are the best hope for our future," Thwaites said.
The minister, however, said the taxpayers cannot be called upon to carry the weight of funding tertiary education for all.
"More and more, those who receive financial assistance for tertiary education should be those who need it first of all, and secondly, those who are going to contribute to the upliftment of the nation to be able to fit within workforce needs," the minister said.
Thirty tertiary students were yesterday provided with scholarships valued at approximately $210 million from the PetroCaribe Development Fund to pursue studies. Three other students were given bursaries.
Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller has lauded the recipients for their achievement saying without preparation, the opportunity would have been useless.
"Although you will be receiving support from the PetroCaribe Fund, never forget the sacrifice and the contribution from your moms and dads, and those who are responsible for getting you to this stage," the prime minister said.