The Government will continue to implement measures aimed at increasing Jamaicans’ access to tertiary education financing.
Addressing the launch of the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB) revised Grant-In-Aid (GIA) Programme at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on Thursday (July 20), Minister of Finance and the Public Service, Dr. the Hon. Nigel Clarke, said the aim is to increase enrolment in the country’s 34 tertiary institutions and, ultimately, boost productivity.
“We want a Jamaica where financial challenges are no longer a hindrance to tertiary education. We want everybody who qualifies, to be able to go to university, but you have to do some work on your own to get there.
“Over 99 per cent of people who apply for loans are able to receive loans. So, what we are seeking to do is to make the loan product more and more attractive so that more and more Jamaicans can choose to use the Students’ Loan Bureau to achieve their educational aspirations,” he said.
Additionally, Dr. Clarke said the Bureau is increasing the number of GIA allocations and sums dispensed.
Beginning this fiscal year, the number of grants provided will increase from 3,000 to 4,200. The sum for each grant will move from $50,000 to $60,000.
The Minister said eligible students from low-income or Programme of Advancement through Health and Education (PATH) households and wards of the State will benefit from the GIA programme.
“Jamaica is moving forward. Jamaica is serious about education and serious about tertiary education as we go forward with determination to achieve the growth and development potential that we know we all have,” he stated.
Dr. Clarke said the SLB has also increased the moratorium between graduation from university and when the loan-repayment period begins.
“You have an entire 14 months after graduation for the loan repayment to begin, and the loans today are 15 years in duration, and in medicine, its 20 years,” he pointed out.
The Minister also said applicants are now able to submit their application forms and supporting documentation online via the Bureau’s website.
During his 2023/24 Budget Debate presentation, Dr. Clarke indicated that the Government was also waiving the SLB guarantor requirement for PATH students, who will also benefit from a waiver on loan application fees.
SLB Executive Director, Nickeisha Walsh, said the Bureau continues to work to bridge the gap between dreams and reality.
She said the purpose of the grant-in-aid facility is to provide financially challenged students with supplementary assistance for other school-related expenses, such as books, transportation, and food.
Ms. Walsh said, to date, the SLB has disbursed more than $2.2 billion in GIA allocations.
“This means we have allocated in this year’s budget $252 million for 4,200 qualified applicants at $60,000 each,” she informed.
To access a GIA provision, students must first apply for the loan that caters to applicants pursuing undergraduate studies.
The grant is provided once the loan is approved and the applicant’s eligibility is verified.
A Grant-In-Aid is a non-repayable monetary provision afforded to eligible students applying for an SLB Targeted Loan.