No tuition spike, students told

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Friday July 30, 2010 – Jamaica’s Education Minister is trying to put tertiary level students at ease following reports that, in another year, they’ll be paying twice as much in tuition fees. Andrew Holness says students will have to pay more, just not as much as soon.

Media reports yesterday quoted Executive Director of the Students’ Loan Bureau (SLB), Lenice Barrett, as saying that there could be a 100 percent increase in tuition fees for the 2011-2012 academic year, as government reduces its subsidy from 80 to 60 percent.

The Bruce Golding administration is trying to transform how tertiary level education is funded and increases in tuition fees is inevitable, but Holness said the changes won’t come on students suddenly.

“The change in how we fund tertiary education will be gradual. You are not going to see an overnight 40 percent reduction, so the alarm raised in the headlines today (yesterday) is not quite accurate,” he told a press conference yesterday.

Holness pointed out that the government has been giving notice of changes since 2007 and promised that each time an adjustment is to be made, notice will be given.

“So there will be nothing dramatic done. If we do decide to make any form of change, students will be given adequate notice and we have also made a commitment that, if we are going to change, we should be prepared to help the students in absorbing the impact,” he said.

The Education Minister explained that when government cuts its subsidy, additional funding will be made available to the SLB to provide students with loans; repayment periods will be extended and interest rates reduced, to ease the burden on the students.

Holness said students will be provided with creative means of paying back the loan, not just in cash, but in contributions as well.

But he also expressed the desire to see the SLB rapidly expanding its capital base to meet the increased demands for loans.