By Editorial Team
As the political debate continues to rage in the US over President Joe Biden’s decision to cancel billions of dollars of student debt, it has brought the issue of funding for higher education to the forefront globally.
In that respect, the decision of the Cayman Islands Government(CIG) to institute a temporary waiver of grade requirements for some of our students is indeed welcome news.
The waiver applies to those students seeking to qualify for Education Council Scholarships to begin undergraduate studies in the fall of 2022 at accredited, recognised overseas institutions, as well as those seeking to begin further education locally.
As explained by the Cayman Islands Ministry of Education (MoE), “Overseas undergraduate scholarships are administered by the ministry’s Scholarship Secretariat Unit and awarded by the Education Council to Caymanian applicants fully accepted into accredited, recognised overseas institutions and who obtain certain grade benchmarks from a variety of programmes.
“The temporary waiver will apply to those who had been conditionally approved to receive a scholarship for overseas undergraduate studies and will apply to qualifying grades normally required from the following programmes.”
Policies vary from country to country, with some countries fully funding their student’s tertiary education.
But there’s agreement that with higher education - whether academically or vocationally - as a path to success, the state must play a central role in providing the funding to ensure a level-playing field in access to higher learning for its citizens, especially the youth.
Student loans have long been at the core of political debate in many countries with the targeted demographic reaching voting age and forming - and influencing - political discourse and the future of their respective countries.
But a growing concern has been the crippling level of debt students are saddled with after (or even if they don’t) graduate.
Many countries have come up with different schemes to lighten the financial burden post-graduation but President Biden’s seems to be the most ambitious, hugely welcome or highly controversial depending on which side of the degree you sit - and more tellingly and which side of the political spectrum you occupy.
With the already high cost of tertiary education a financial burden for students and their parents, accessibility - and denial of opportunity - are stumbling blocks that must be overcome.
In the case of Cayman, scholarships are welcome and in huge demand as a pathway to preparing our future leaders in the professions, business and government.
The question is: Are we doing enough?
The decision to introduce the waiver is a welcome development.
But if it’s easier for a young person to get a car loan or even a mortgage than a student loan, that warrants a serious rethink of our priorities.
It could be a matter of choices of the individual, but we submit that a student loan is a pathway to progress and success.
But are we putting enough effort into promoting the advantages of student loans as investments in personal professional development, financial security, and positioning to take up the key roles in our society?
Starting now we need an immediate refocus for a long-term view on an effective, well-managed student loan scheme that’s less burdensome and more of an investment in the personal future of the individual and the national future of Cayman.
Ultimately, it pays for itself and there are examples in Cayman which prove that and should be emulated.
Student loans as the pathway to the best universities in the world are a step in the right direction.
Without that, we’ll remain on the un-merry-go-round cycle of agonising debate over access to our own Cayman job market.