Nearly 1,400 receive government scholarships

The Cayman Islands government will spend nearly $10,000 per recipient of scholarship assistance during the 2013/14 financial year, according to figures released last week by the premier’s office.

The grants from various programmes total more than $13 million in assistance to 1,373 attendees of both local and foreign universities, as well as trade schools.

The report on the grants was released partly in response to claims that the new Progressives-led government would end scholarship assistance for recipients under the former Nation Building Fund.

According to a news release circulated to local media last week by a group called the Young Nation Builders Programme Movement: “The office of the premier is threatening to discontinue a scholarship which has given young people a fair chance to further their education in ways doubtful and unsuccessful through other scholarship programmes.”

The release then asked recipients to fill out a survey regarding the Nation Building Fund issue, which the group claimed had “gone viral”.

Finance Minister Marco Archer said last month that students who received scholarships to study overseas as part of the fund would not lose support. However, new scholarship recipients will no longer be able to receive awards from both the former Nation Building Fund and the Education Council Scholarship programme, which is also maintained by government.

The premier’s office stated that 112 scholarship recipients under the newly dubbed Young Nation Builders Scholarship Programme would receive grants totalling just more than $2 million during the current budget year.

A “significant” number of applications under the nation builders programme had been received between July 2012 and 15 June, 2013, which was the cut-off date for applications. The vast majority of the applications will be considered under the Education Council Scholarship criteria.

No new applications under the nation builders programme would be considered after the 15 June, 2013 cut-off date, the premier’s office stated.

“There should be no doubt about my personal commitment and that of the government to providing educational opportunities and to the development of our young people,” Cayman Islands Premier Alden McLaughlin said. The premier has previously noted that several aspects of the former Nation Building Fund, managed under the United Democratic Party government, would not be continued.

In addition to the nation builders scholarship, the government has committed to $10.76 million in funding for the Education Council Scholarship programme during the 2013/14 budget. At the moment, the programme funds scholarships for 1,200 new and continuing university students who attend classes both at Cayman schools and overseas institutions.

The Tourism Ministry also has a total of 61 students receiving support under its scholarship programme at an annual total of $600,000.

There has been some change in the management of the scholarship programmes. Mr. McLaughlin said the Progressives government policy will be for the Education Ministry to manage both the young nation builders and the Education Council scholarships. Those have been taken out of the premier’s office.

“Scholarships are properly a matter for the Ministry of Education,” Mr. McLaughlin said.

A review of the entire Young Nation Builders Scholarship Programme is under way to ensure value for money, the premier said.

Young Nation Builders Programme