The government will spend $19 million annually on the Bahamas Government Tertiary Education Grant Programme at the University of The Bahamas (UB), Minister of Finance Peter Turnquest said yesterday.
The implementation of the grant represents the fulfillment of the Free National Movement’s (FNM) campaign promise of free tuition for Bahamians at the university.
The grant will cover tuition, course fees, stipends for teachers and nurses in training and an accommodation allowance of up to $500 per month for students who have to relocate to New Providence to attend UB.
Students who are Bahamian citizens, enrolled full-time at UB and maintain a minimum 2.0 grade point average (GPA) will be eligible for the grant.
“UB has done an analysis of their average full-time student intake, and they calculated what that would mean in terms of tuition, and the number is about $19 million, and we’ve provided for that,” Turnquest said at a Rotary Club of West Nassau meeting.
“We fully believe that that is funded, and that will be sustainable for the long term.”
The 2.0 GPA requirement was met with some criticism in the public sphere, with some saying it will promote and reward mediocrity.
The current bursary award has a minimum requirement of a 3.0 GPA.
However, Turnquest defended the decision, noting that all Bahamians should have financial access to a tertiary education.
“The overall objective here is to ensure that tertiary education is accessible by everybody, that finances does not become a barrier to success of otherwise talented children,” he said.
“With respect to the minimum grade point average, again, we tend to sell people short because they come out of school maybe with an average GPA that that somehow is going to limit their success in university. And I can tell you many circumstances where people have been discounted and gone on and caught fire because they are now doing what they actually are interested in, in terms of a major or a career.”
He added, “We’re not in the business of trying to hold back or short-change anybody or to discourage them from achieving their full potential.
“So, this is an investment in the young people of this country, and, in fact, an investment in the future of this country. We need talented people, and we need them from a wide and diverse spectrum of our society, because in working all together and understanding and appreciating and sharing in those different cultural grounds and experiences, we get the best of our people.”
The announcement comes only months after UB President Dr. Rodney Smith announced that the university will be moving forward with its 15 percent tuition increase in the upcoming year for first-time, first-year students.
UB announced in a statement last week that current teacher education and nursing grants, the national bursary and the student-athlete financial assistance will be consolidated under the new grant initiative.
It said that all returning and new students, including current grant recipients, must apply to the new grant program, which will be available online as of July 1.
Education: Virginia in Charlottesville, BA in Foreign Affairs and Spanish