One of the major objectives of the government of Trinidad and Tobago is to increase the national participatory rate in tertiary education to 60% by the year 2015. A fundamental constraint to the GORTT achieving this objective is that many students experience financial difficulty in pursuit of tertiary education as it relates to the cost of books, accommodation, and other general living expenses.
Previously the products available to facilitate this development were – the Student Revolving Loan Fund (SRLF) and the University Student Guarantee Loan Fund (USGLF). The concerns regarding these two products are that the SRLF excludes all students studying Law, Humanities, and Education among other disciplines, while the USGLF only provided assistance for tuition fees to full time students attending the University of the West Indies.
It is against this background that cabinet decided to merge these two funds, review other student loan programmes and develop a hybrid product that will address the needs of the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago who are interested in pursuing tertiary education. Towards this end, the Higher Education Loan Programme (HELP) was developed.
HELP was established as a separate fund which could be accessed by nationals of Trinidad and Tobago pursuing tertiary level education locally or within the CARICOM Region. The fund assists with expenses such as accommodation, books, living expenses, and other costs arising out of the decision to further one’s education. Students may apply for loans of up to $25,000 per academic year if studying within Trinidad and Tobago or up to $75,000 per academic year if studying at any of the specially approved institutions within the CARICOM region. Interest on these loans will be subsidized by the government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. Students who are unemployed while studying will be allowed to commence repayment of the loan six months after completing the programme of study. Any interest incurred during the study period will be paid for by the government.