Funding for Mature Students

Bermuda needs to increase funding for mature students pursuing studies at the university level. The Bermuda Government has taken a first step in increasing funds within its existing scholarship and loan programmes, which is good, but more must be done, particularly for mature students.

As someone who is self-funding their studies, I am all too familiar with the high cost – financially and otherwise – in upending one’s life to improve qualifications and skills by completing a degree. Individuals in my position either use their own savings, take out bank loans with astronomical interest fees, or use some combination of the two.

Many adults I speak with would like to go overseas to study, but find it difficult to do so because they are unable to afford it. This is unfortunate because there are loads of highly experienced Bermudians who would like to and would benefit from completing a degree. Bermuda and employers island-wide only stand to gain from having Bermudians improve their educational qualifications. Employers are constantly saying how costly it is for them to import labour and we know this is true, so an investment in Bermudians reaps huge rewards all around.

Quite honestly, for many adults, it is hard enough for them to get beyond the fear of stepping out of their comfort zones and beyond any self-doubt concerning their ability to handle a return to studies after such an extended period. Regrettably, too many people fall into the trap of thinking they are too old to go back to school. However, once they get their heads around the idea, they are then faced with the financial costs and are prevented from pursuing their goals due to a lack of funds.

Some companies will sponsor employees, but many people do not want the restrictions that accompany this arrangement. For example, sometimes companies, understandably, expect employees they sponsor to continue their employment for a period after receiving their qualification. For people who do not wish to remain with their firms or who wish to retrain in an entirely different field this is not a suitable option. 

It is critical that Bermuda improve the quality of its workforce so that the island remains competitive. This means not just improving its education system and providing funding for Bermuda’s young people to further their education, but to also make it possible for adults who want to retrain for a new career or to further their education overseas to do so.

Perhaps interest-free (a misnomer in many cases!) student loan programmes can be set up specifically for mature students. These loans could cover tuition and living expenses and repayments could begin once studies have been completed. The Ace Foundation’s Career Paths Initiative Loan Programme (which has been heavily oversubscribed in previous years and now appears to have been removed from the website!) is a good example of the sort of thing I am thinking of, but exclusively for mature students. Mature students should not be competing with younger students for funds in these scholarship and loan programmes – they must be kept as separate catergories. The Bermuda Government could develop a programme like this and perhaps partner with private companies interested in assisting. Certainly, companies could choose to take the initiative in either setting up such programmes directed at mature students or expanding their existing programmes to include them, independent of the govenment, as well. In any event, there is a definite need to cater to and invest in Bermuda’s mature students. 

It is a very healthy move and one worth actively pursuing sooner rather than later.

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~ by Carol-Ann Simmons on September 5, 2008.

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