EDUCATION Minister Jeff Lloyd.
By AVA TURNQUEST
Tribune Chief Reporter
THE government is considering an increase to the allotment for scholarships and tuition assistance in the next fiscal budget after less than 15 percent of applicants received funding for the upcoming school year, according to Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd.
Mr Lloyd told media outside Cabinet his ministry awarded grants and scholarships to 500 students but received 3,500 applications.
He lamented the burden the antiquated system placed on students and parents as the timeline was far behind requirements of most universities and visa applications.
“I understand that the Bahamian people are impatient, frustrated,” he said.
“So we are looking at the system, we are going to review the system because many universities have already begun.
“Many of those students have already passed…many of those students would have gone from June, July to the United States embassy to qualify for a student visa and they need to have some answer with regard to whether they are qualified or they are the recipient of a scholarship.
“So we understand that, we understand the frustration, we apologise for it.”
Mr Lloyd added: “That is the system it has been in train now for the last several years. We are going to correct it, we need to correct it because this simply cannot work. We are not as responsive as we need to be for the 21st (century) aspirations and requirements and the demands of the Bahamian people. It’s just not working.”
Mr Lloyd said the confirmation and disbursement of new scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year hinged on 2018 BGCSE results, which were received last week, and should be resolved by the end of the week.
He said at first glance, it appears there has been a slight improvement in student performance in the BGSCEs, adding the ministry will likely release the national results early next week.
“When I say scholarships, I mean grants as well as scholarships, now please understand you’re looking at approximately 3,500 applications,” he said.
“We only got 500 scholarships so right off the back you only talking about 16, 17 percent of those who apply who are going to be eligible for a grant or some tuition assistance, and that’s naturally going to disappoint thousands of Bahamian students.
“That really breaks my heart because we would like to help as many as we can, and we are going to look at that next year and see how we can up the budget for scholarships and tuition assistance.”
The Tribune reported earlier this month on processing irregularities at the Scholarships and Education Loans Division that were said to be the cause of delayed disbursement of renewed scholarships.
Yesterday, Mr Lloyd explained officials had been challenged by the lack of official transcripts but “virtually” all renewals for some 2,100 students had been completed.
The 2018 National Bursary Scholars award ceremony will be held at the Melia resort on Thursday.
Recipients will receive scholarships of $5,000 per year for up to four years, according to the ministry, which valued the government’s total investment for the period at around $8 million.