GARCIA ROLLS OUT GATE
Students applying to tertiary level institutions from this month will now undergo an income means test to determine their level of eligibility for funding via the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) Programme, Education Minister Anthony Garcia said yesterday.However, he assured that despite the economic constraints Government was currently facing, it had “opened the gates of GATE to all students in some form or fashion.”
Addressing GATE’s future at the Education Towers, Port-of-Spain, said Government had spent in excess of $600 million to fund the programme up to this point and could no longer continue in this manner. Noting “programme hopping” would soon be a thing of the past, he estimated close to $100 million in the first instance would be saved via the means test process.
He encouraged people to visit the ministry’s website to access information and online applications and assured applicants their financial information would remain confidential once it was submitted.
The Caribbean Advanced Proficiency Examination (CAPE) results are due to be released next week and the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) results due the week after.
Garcia said students who were already enrolled in various programmes and who enrolled for programmes effective August 2016 would continue to receive 100 per cent funding for their entire programmes. However, he said effective this month and beyond, “an income means test will be used to determine the eligibility for GATE funding.” (See boxes below).
“This Government has decided that wherever a person’s household income falls, that person will still be eligible for some measure of GATE funding,” Garcia said.
He said funding for post-graduate degrees will also be available to students whose programmes are in alignment with the country’s developmental needs.
Garcia stressed that only programmes and institutions accredited by the Accreditation Council of T&T (ACTT) and TVET programmes for Level III and above will be funded.
Highlighting the various forms of financial assistance being provided to students, Garcia said effective August 2016 the loan ceiling for students at local institutions will be raised from $25,000 to $35,000 annually, while the ceiling cap for students at regional institutions will remain at $75,000 annual. The decision not to fund incoming medical students at St George’s University, Grenada, remains unchanged while people 50 and over will no longer qualify for GATE, he added.
Garcia said Government will also be reviewing its long-term policy to act as the sole guarantor of loans and the subsidisation of interest.
Defending the introduction of the income means test, Garcia said, “This is to ensure those who are really in need of funding would receive the maximum amount.”
He said appropriate checks and balances had been put in place to ensure people do not “take advantage” of Government’s generosity, but appealed to applicants to be honest when providing financial information, as investigation officers will be despatched to check claims.
He said, “Everything will be done to ensure that whatever is declared on those forms will be correct. We will be appointing investigation officers in instances where we perceive the students have not been truthful in their declaration.”
Garcia said sanctions and funding withdrawal was possible in cases where students were found to be lying on their applications.
Not anticipating any untoward delays between processing of applications and the start of classes in September, director of the GATE Funding Division, Teresa Davidson, said this was not the first time means testing was being used, as it was first employed for 18 months when GATE was rolled out in 2004. She said while the previous process was a more detailed analysis, she was not ruling out the possibility it may be revised for next year as they were only looking at income parameters this year.
Funding of undergraduate programmes
• Where the total household income is $10,000 or less per month—the student will be eligible for 100 per cent GATE funding;
• Where the total household income is above $10,000 per month but less than $30,000—students will be eligible for 75 per cent GATE funding;
• Where the total household income is $30,000 per month or more—students would be required to pay 50 per cent of GATE funding.
Funding of post-graduate programmes
• Where the total household income is less than $30,000 per month—the student will be eligible for 50 per cent funding;
• Where the total household income is above $30,000 per month or more—the student will be eligible for 25 per cent funding.