Investment in Education has been a hallmark of governance in Trinidad and Tobago, as is reflected in budgetary allocations over the years since independence. Apart from providing free primary and secondary school education to children, which is their right, there has been historical investment, since 1963, in funding assistance for post-secondary training.
The number of Island Scholarships offered over the years increased from five to ten in the 1960’s and 1970’s, to 20 in the 1980’s; and by the year 2008, that number progressed to 261, reaching a maximum of 447 in 2014, then settling at 400 annually from 2016 to 2019.
This has carried with it significant investment, as an Open Medical Scholarship costs, on average, 600,000 per year for five years, an Open non-medical – $450,000 per year for 3-4 years and an additional scholarship $225,000 for 3 years. During the period 2008 – 2019, over 1586 National Scholarships have been awarded, at a cost of approximately $TT800 Million. In addition to National Scholarships, the Government of T&T also funds the GATE programme which is intended to widen access and make tertiary education affordable to all.
Our Government is committed, even in a time of great financial difficulty as 2020 has proven to be, to ensuring that our nationals are assisted in undergraduate training through these two (2) initiatives , as we continue to invest in the development of our greatest resource; our people.
However, as has been elucidated time and time again by the Ministry of Finance (MOF), we are in challenging times. Our Prime Minister has spoken of the requirement to make the necessary adjustments to each sector of society so that we can continue to meet important needs without undue hardship to any citizen. In this regard, Cabinet has taken a decision to make critical adjustments to the GATE and Scholarship Programmes, which will allow for greater equity in distribution of precious resources; which will focus the assistance where it is most required.
Accordingly, with immediate effect, no more than 100 National Scholarships will be awarded annually, and 500 National Bursaries will be made available to students who are citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and who would have sat CAPE over a period of two (2) consecutive years in Form 6, including the year of award.
- The Government of Trinidad and Tobago will offer a maximum of 100 scholarships
- No more than 10 (5 open and 5 additional) will be awarded in each of the 10 cognate groupings based on the performance of the top 10 students in the cognate group. The award of these scholarships will be based solely on academic achievement.
The ten (10) cognate groupings are:
- Business Studies
- Creative and Performing Studies
- Environmental Studies
- General Studies
- Information Communication and Technology Studies
- Language Studies
- Natural Sciences
- Technical Studies
- Students who have not been awarded a National Scholarship, and have attained at least 8 units at Grades I and II, over a period not exceeding 2 consecutive years in Form 6 are eligible to apply for a National Bursary.
- Students must show evidence of having been accepted to an accredited / recognised local tertiary level institution or a regional campus of the UWI.
- Applications for the National Bursary will be evaluated using the following criteria with attendant weightings:
- Intended course of study should be in alignment with priority areas of development (15%)
- Extracurricular activities / contribution to community / country (15%)
- Purpose statement (10%)
- Academic performance (30%)
- Need as evidenced by Means Test (30%)
- A Bursary will comprise the following:
- A book allowance of $9,711/$5,711 (medical studies – first time payment / annually) and $8,062/$4,062 (non-medical studies – first time payment / annually)
- A personal maintenance allowance of $3,043.00 per month
- 100% GATE funding for study at local institutions.
The amended National Scholarship and Bursary Programme will take effect immediately, based on the 2020 CAPE results. The expenditure to be incurred in respect of the scholarships and bursaries, is estimated at $57,193,005.00. Further details regarding the application process for the National Bursary will be provided at a later date.
The Government has reviewed the GATE Programme to ensure that the Programme is maintained within the budgetary allocation and that students who need it continue to receive assistance toward tuition fees at the post-secondary and tertiary levels.
The proposed revision to the GATE Policy is anticipated to have an expenditure of $TT 400Mn in fiscal 2021. Accordingly, the Government proposes that effective August 2020:
- All applications for GATE funding will include a mandatory means test- failure to complete the means test will disqualify the application from being considered for GATE funding.
- where the household income is below $10,000 per month, students will be eligible for 100% GATE funding for tuition fees
- where the household income is above $10,000 per month but less than $30,000 per month, students will be eligible for 75% GATE funding for tuition fees
- where the household income is above $30,000 per month but less than $75,000 per month, students will be eligible for 50% GATE funding for tuition fees
- where the household income is above $75,000 per month, students will be ineligible for GATE funding
With immediate effect:
- funding under the GATE Programme will be provided for no more than one (1) programme up to the undergraduate level;
- funding for postgraduate programmes will be discontinued
Citizens are asked to note that:
- students currently enrolled in postgraduate programmes will receive GATE funding until August 2021.
- students currently enrolled in undergraduate programmes will continue to be funded for the normal duration of the programme.
- students enrolled in programmes at regional campuses of the University of the West Indies (UWI) that are offered at the UWI, St. Augustine campus, will be provided the equivalent level of funding at the St. Augustine campus.
- students who are already in possession of undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications, regardless of whether or not they were beneficiaries of the GATE Programme, will not be able to access funding for any other programme.
- the HELP Loan remains available for Tertiary students through the partnership of the Government with commercial banks.