Once the Budget is passed, Tertiary Education Loan Scheme will be offered for post graduate studies and funding for overseas scholarships in identified priority areas.
A drastic increase of 30 per cent which brings the budget for Tertiary Scholarship and Loans Board for 2018-2019 to $255 million.
Currently, the Board supports 21,049 students in Fiji. $59.1 million has been allocated to reach 4233 more students. While 630 students could previously get scholarship under the National Toppers Scholarship, this has been increased to 970.
$3 million is allocated to fund a news Overseas Awards Scheme under the National Toppers Scheme to ensure Fijians are trained in highly-specialised areas not currently offered by local higher education institution but which are needed for Fiji’s economic development. Each year 20 awards will be offered for specialised undergraduate areas.
A new Civil Service Scholarship Scheme will be introduced to support the professional development of civil servants, thereby raising the level of service delivery. $2.3million has been allocated to fund 60 awards.
50 awards will be offered to in-service teachers to upgrade their qualifications. Out of this 30 awards will be to upgrade to bachelor’s degree and 20 awards to upgrade to a post graduate degree.
A new Post Graduate Scholarship scheme will be introduced and offer 50 awards each year for post graduate studies locally.
$266,000 is allocated to grant recipients of the Scholarship Scheme for Special Children with allowances of $6,8000 on the same term as those under the National Toppers Scholarship.
Students had been vocal in how they wanted TELS to be improved in the coming financial year. The threshold for eligibility for receiving allowance will be raised, meaning recipients whose combined parental income is below $50,000 per year will be eligible to apply for allowances offered by TELS. To assist students who require at least two bus trips to get to classes, the bus fare allowance will be increased to $30 per week.
Early loan repayments are now heavily incentivised, giving TELS recipients the opportunity to have a significant portion of their student debt paid off by Government. Each graduate’s Government incentive will be equity-based, allowing those with ore debt more time to repay their loans at a discounted rate.
For example, if a new graduate with a student debt of $20,000 settles 75 per cent of the balance of their loan within three years, their remaining balance will be covered by Government – effectively a $5000 discount, as very little interest would have accrued in that period.