Government to cut SLB funding by $100 million

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, March 20, 2017

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THE Government is proposing to slash its contribution to the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) by $100 million for the financial year 2017/2018.


The financial year 2016/2017 saw Government spending $3 billion to help finance the bureau, and this financial year is projected to spend $2.9 billion, according to the estimates of expenditure.


SLB funds approximately 30 per cent of students enrolled in tertiary institutions.


The SLB’s Public Education and Public Relations Manager Analisa Allen could not be reached for a comment yesterday.


The bureau’s 2013/2014 annual report, the latest posted on its website, said the organisation had seen an exponential growth in demand over the years for tertiary assistance. This, it said, had created some challenges regarding the funding of the increased demand.


Yesterday, at a People’s National Party (PNP) post-budget press conference at the party’s headquarters, Opposition Spokesman on Finance Dr Peter Phillips raised the issue which he said is of concern.


"One thing I am happy about is that the rates of interest on the student loans are going down, but I notice that they have also reduced the capital budget of the Students’ Loan Bureau by $100 million. …I am unhappy that they are taking money and so fewer students are going to be able to get access than would have been the case if the additional $100 million was there," he said.


Finance Minister Audley Shaw made no mention of the cut in his March 9 budget presentation, but announced that interest rates on Pay As You Study loans would be lowered from 9.5 per cent to 6 per cent; interest rates on postgraduate loans will move from 13 per cent to 9.5 per cent, while interest rates will decline from 9.5 per cent to 6 per cent for study in the areas of maritime and logistics, agriculture, engineering, and information and communications technology.


The Jamaica Observer was not able to contact Education Minister Ruel Reid for a comment.


Meanwhile, Opposition spokesman on Education Ronald Thwaites said the move is designed to keep more able candidates out of university.


"Student loan funds need to be increased not decreased. An effort needs to be made to draw capital into the support of tertiary education. We tried that and had not completed the exercise, and I’m very sorry that there appears to be no further effort in this regard," he said.

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