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On pause!

Scholarship applicants in limbo

Shortlisted applicants for the National Development Scholarship are today feeling as if their academic life is in limbo.

The Ministry of Education is yet to announce the successful candidates even though the majority of international study programmes got started in September and the affected students would have been depending on their scholarship funds, which cover not only the cost an economy class ticket to the country of study, but their full tuition fees, as well as books and other basic necessities.

The scholarship also makes provision for a clothing allowance of $736 for students pursuing studies in cold countries, as well as a living allowance, which varies from
$5,880 to $7,560, depending on the actual country of study.

The delay in awarding this year’s scholarships has therefore left student candidates hoping and praying that they will be able to complete the student visa process for the United Kingdom in time.

One such applicant, who spoke to Barbados TODAY on condition of anonymity, pointed out that she was due to receive a living allowance of just over $7,000.

However, she told Barbados TODAY the actual cost of accommodation around her prospective campus was around 7,000 pounds sterling, meaning that she would still have to source additional funds to cover her studies.

However, she said the current delay was seriously hampering her ability to do so.

“I would like to know why it is taking so long this year, given that winners are normally publicized in early August. In fact, last year, the scholarship winners were announced July 28th.

“I don’t want to speculate but if it is a case of no funding, they [Ministry of Education] need to say so, because at the stage, even if I am successful, I am not sure it is even possible to start this year,” explained the frustrated applicant.

Other shortlisted applicants told Barbados TODAY that they had gone ahead and made deposits on student accommodation and were now in danger of losing their deposits.

The concerns come on the heels of those recently expressed by students who had applied to the Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF) for financing only to be told back in August that the loan scheme was out of funds.

However, since then, Minister of Finance Chris Sinckler announced in his August 16 Budget that an immediate $5 million cash injection would be made to shore up the Scheme.

The effect of that move has been that some students have again started to receive funding, albeit more than four weeks into the new academic school year.

“I didn’t get a formal letter or call or anything but after I took the initiative to speak to a loans officer at Student Revolving, I was informed that my loan was approved,” said one student, who is pursuing studies here at the University of the West Indies.

In the meantime, she said she had signed up for the University’s student payment plan, which allows her to pay her full tuition over the next five months, after making a deposit of $540 for amenities.

“This means that I will be paying UWI about $800 per month, so right now I am looking forward to receiving the funds from Student Revolving,” said the student, who is pursuing a three year programme which started on September 5.

However, there are others who were left with no choice but to pursue other options of financing their tertiary education.

One of those students, who had initially complained to Barbados TODAY back in August about being turned down for a loan from the Student Revolving, said she had since secured funding in part for her studies from a credit union, and the remainder from a friend, and was now pursuing legal studies at the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad.

“Actually for me I went to the credit union but I could not get the amount I wanted, so a friend offered me a no interest loan,” she said.

Though she has not kept track of all her colleagues, she added, “I know of someone who took in their application to the SRLF long after and got through.”

Another student said she was forced to sell her car in order to further her education.

Barbados TODAY was also reliably informed some medical students in Cuba are still awaiting their promised governmental financial assistance for the past two years.

Efforts to reach Minister of Education Ronald Jones and other senior officials in his Ministry for comment were unsuccessful.

However, one Ministry official said the “deliberation process was not yet complete” on the National Scholarships.

colvillemounsey@barbadostoday.bb

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