Opposition Leader, Andrew Holness, is once again calling for fundamental changes in the way tertiary education in Jamaica is funded.
Mr. Holness first raised concerns in 2010, during his tenure as Minister or Education. Speaking in Parliament yesterday, the Leader of the Opposition again sought to bring attention to the need for comprehensive reform of how post-secondary schooling is funded.
He noted the fact that data revealed that the number of students meeting the requirements for tertiary education has doubled in recent years, increasing the demand for loans. “The challenge we now face with the Students Loan Bureau. It is not a problem…indeed it is a good thing…the problem that we face is that you have more students who matriculate in addition to those from previous periods who did not meet and have now met, trying to get into the university system. So, Mr. Speaker, this problem will not go away and we will not be able to –at will – continue to borrow as the need arises,” Mr. Holness warned.
Mr. Holness insists that the government cannot sustain the financing of this new and growing demand for loans. As such, he says the time has come for government to reform how higher education is funded. “Mr. Speaker, this problem will not go away and we will not be able to continue to borrow as the need arises. I heard the Minister of Education alluding to whether or not the current system of financing tertiary education is the best way, in terms of presenting block funding to the Universities…this is an argument we have carried before…as to how as a country we will have to sit down and redefine tertiary financing in Jamaica. The present Student Loan revolving system is one that cannot support the high level of new demands that are being made on it. I feel now that the government ought to come to this parliament with a clear policy direction as to how we will finance tertiary education in Jamaica.”
Meanwhile, Mr. Holness is also raising the importance of establishing a Credit Bureau as a possible remedy to improve compliance in relation to the repayment of loans. “Much was hinged on the establishment of a Credit Reporting Facility. [It was suggested] that that would, in some ways, help to lessen the risk of default, if the students were part of a credit bureau. I wanted to find out from the Minister of Finance where we are on that. But… have we developed within that credit reporting system, a sharing mechanism? For instance, are we able to share with the United States or Canada or the United Kingdom so that if the student beneficiaries migrate from Jamaica, their credit rating would follow them to the jurisdiction they are now in? I believe that, if that were to be done, it would seriously improve compliance,” Mr. Holness asked.
Mr. Holness was making his contribution to the debate on the state of the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB).
PLEASE DOWNLOAD CLIPS BELOW:
Holness on tertiary funding: https://www.box.com/s/rknnr6navqbqt3lw7it3
Holness on Credit Bureau: https://www.box.com/s/e7u75sodkhpv2xvj9z0v
Increase in persons seeking tertiary education: https://www.box.com/s/ne48gywyrvrhdz8ljcv7