By NADINE WILSON Career & Education reporter
Sunday, March 16, 2014
LAST year alone, the Students' Loan Bureau (SLB) received over 15,000 applications for loans, which is up from over 6,000 six years ago. This increase in figures is indicative of the growing number of students now choosing to attend local universities.
It's upon this basis that executive director of the SLB, Monica Brown, advises parents to start saving towards their children's tertiary education from early.
"If parents start taking on the responsibility from very early to start saving -- even a little [because] it doesn't have to be a whole heap, but it adds up- at the end of the day -- you will be able to finance even a portion of your child's tuition expense," she told reporters and editors at the Jamaica Observer's Monday Exchange last week. "In terms of what you would require in terms of a loan, it would be much less and at the end of the day when it comes to repayment, it is more affordable," she said.
There are several plans available for parents who want to start saving towards their children's tertiary education. One such is Heritage Education Fund International (Jamaica), which has paid out over US$16 million of savings in principal and scholarships since it was introduced locally in 1996.
"Subscribers' contributions are safely invested in US dollar denominated fixed-income and government-issued investments, which we feel is a major feature of our plan," president and chief executive officer Jason Maguire noted.
Under the Heritage plan, parents are encouraged to start saving towards their children's education from birth and then the principal earned on this saving is used to finance the first year of university. The organisation then gives scholarships to cover the next three years if parents have subscribed to the terms governing the funds.
Another alternative for parents who want to make an investment in their child's education is the National Commercial Bank's (NCB) Omni Educator which encourages parents or guardians to set a target investment goal to fund their child's education. The money with interest is then used to pay the child's tuition when they have been accepted into an accredited university. The child is also awarded a 20 per cent education grant which can go towards tuition or other school related expenses.
Other options parents can consider include taking out a policy or starting a fixed deposit at a financial institution. Scotia Jamaica, for example, offers the ScotiaMint where once the money injected remains untouched and if premiums are up-to-date, parents are able to get a long-term saving bonus. "Jobs that require some tertiary education and training are growing faster than those that require none, so we must prepare the young people for that," said psychologist Dr Leahcim Semaj. "Nobody can guarantee lifetime employment, but we know that good work, cross-training and something called continuous education (will guarantee) lifetime employability. So, that investment is one that pays off forever," he noted.