Few controls in $9.5M programme
An Education Ministry review of Cayman’s government-funded scholarship programme has found several serious problems with how grants are awarded and maintained.
Minister Rolston Anglin said an overall investment of $9.5 million this year has helped send nearly 800 students to school either overseas or to the University College of the Cayman Islands.
However, Mr. Anglin also noted Wednesday that what could be considered a big success story instead showed signs of neglect, and even mismanagement.
For instance, the minister told the Legislative Assembly that criteria by which scholarships were being awarded was outdated and poorly communicated. He said long delays were occurring between grant approvals and notification of those awards given to scholarship applicants.
‘Given the importance of this area and the significant dollar value of public funds under administration…the staffing of the scholarship unit was inadequate with only one full-time staff member,’ Mr. Anglin said, adding that another staffer was on hand to help out during the ‘busy period.’
Local scholarship grants were not prioritized, Mr. Anglin said. No distinction was being made between those from lower-income families that might need the assistance more.
The minister also noted some scholarship recipients were not keeping up their grades.
‘A large proportion of the individuals on scholarships had GPAs that were alarmingly low, some 1.0 or less,’ Mr. Anglin said.
The scholarship programme requires a 2.5 grade point average in the first year of study and a 3.0 thereafter.
‘Many of these had low semester averages over the previous year, but had not received any follow up or warning letters by the ministry,’ he said.
None of the students in the scholarship programme had funding cut by the ministry. But Mr. Anglin noted that some underperforming students receiving grants had previously been on the honour roll at John Gray High School.
‘This is not acceptable,’ he said.
Mr. Anglin said he had participated directly in the scholarship process this year as a member of the Education Council, which helped bring some of these problems to light.
He said the Education Ministry will establish a Scholarship Services Review Committee to provide advice on areas where programme improvements are needed.
The committee chairperson, Joy Basdeo, has been asked to report on the programme to the Education Council by mid-December.
Committee members will be asked to advise on a number of areas including prioritising scholarships, how best to manage the programme, and how to monitor award recipients’ progress through university.
‘We must ensure Caymanians realise that excellence is not an option, it is a must,’ Mr. Anglin said.