Jodi-Ann Gilpin, Gleaner Writer
HECTOR WHEELER, senior head of advancement at the University of Technology (Utech), says the financial bind in which the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) finds itself underscores the need for Jamaicans to plan for their tertiary education.
While acknowledging that the economic cost of tertiary education is high for many Jamaicans, Wheeler said he was not convinced that a significant number of persons had carefully planned for their tertiary education.
"I am aware that Jamaica is going through a rough time, and I am aware that some persons have some serious financial challenges, but I also feel strongly that a significant number of our persons are waiting on the last minute for manna to fall," Wheeler said.
The Utech director, who has responsibility for communications and events planning, said while his institution provided a number of avenues to help pupils offset some of the cost of their education, "parents and spouses will just have to find other alternatives and engage in serious financial planning for their children's education because its not cheap".
Last week, the SLB told a parliamentary committee that it would require $6.4 billion to provide loans for tertiary students next academic year, but noted that none of the funds had been identified as yet.
Each year, an average of 8,000 students apply for loans from the bureau.
Seek out financial institutions
Wheeler said for students who were planning to start university in a couple of years, "it is urgent they start seeking out financial institutions and look at what they offer. Talk to financial planners. The idea is to put away something, but we can't have the Students' Loan (Bureau) as the only option. We have to diversify."
In the meantime, for one St James mother, the thought of her daughter being unable to pursue medical studies because of the inability of the SLB to provide loan funds is scary.
Shernett Annon Rose, a businesswoman, told The Gleaner that her daughter was looking forward to doing a programme in medicine at the University of the West Indies in September.
"Medicine is over $2 million, and how many persons can come up with that? Do you just give up your dream?" she asked.
"It's a terrible situation, and that's the only avenue, so if things don't work out in time, I guess she will have to hold off for a while," said Rose.
While Rose worries about whether her daughter will be able to secure loan funding to start her tertiary studies, 19-year-old Jody-Ann Johnson is hoping she, too, can secure funding to complete her Bachelor's in Basic Medical Sciences in pharmacology at the University of the West Indies.
"I really don't know what I would do if they can't come up with the funds for my tuition. It is my final year, and I have no other source of funding. My mother is currently unemployed, and I would really hope that I will be able to complete my studies," she said.