Op-ed: Funding our Future
In our 2017 election manifesto, the Progressive Labour Party promised to "Increase accessibility to Bermuda College by providing financial support to students in need....".
We made this promise because we believe that Bermudians must have full access to all the resources they need to be able to achieve the knowledge, skills, and experience required to compete in 21st century Bermuda. We also made this promise because we saw too many young Bermudians losing out on opportunities and falling behind in terms of jobs and opportunities in our own country.
Under this PLP Government, we have not only made our promise, but kept and exceeded it. In the last five years, students attending Bermuda College have benefited from $300k in extra financial aid annually ($1.5 million).
For too many years, Bermudians with the ability but not the means have seen access to college/university education delayed or denied. In fact, the recent census highlighted the impact of lack of access to college education on Black Bermudians. That is why we:
Increased funding for scholarships, created more scholarships and grants for Bermudians of all ages and Broadened the criteria for existing scholarships so that more Bermudians can gain access to a college or university degree.
In 2019, we introduced the College Promise program which provides graduating Cedarbridge Academy and Berkeley Institute students with a 3.0 GPA or higher the opportunity to attend Bermuda College tuition-free. Our College Promise program currently has 70 students enrolled which is paid for by the Ministry of Education.
Promises made; Promises kept.
Additionally, this year, the Ministry of Education awarded 67 students with scholarships and awards. Further advancing our commitment to students, the budget for scholarships and awards has increased from $1million upon taking office to its current budget of $1.45million.
This commitment to enhancing educational opportunities for Bermudians is particularly impressive considering the massive economic impact of the Covid 19 global pandemic and the government being forced to manage the previous government's multi-million-dollar debacles at Morgan's Point and the airport. We have managed our economy in a fiscally responsible manner and ensured that Bermudians would not be left behind in educational opportunities in their own country.
The last census showed that for our people to take full advantage of career opportunities within our economy, more Bermudians holding college and university degrees were needed. Despite this, the previous government gutted scholarship funding. When we took office in 2017, that decision had severely handicapped the ability of many Bermudians to commence or complete their college education.
We swiftly reversed that short-sighted decision, implementing the funding increases and scholarship broadening needed to achieve our goal. That decision has borne tremendous fruit for the benefit of hundreds of Bermudians and Bermuda.
We recognize that we still have a long way to go to level the playing field and ensure that Bermudians always have access to the training, skills, and experience needed to compete for jobs and opportunities in our economy. Despite this, we are making sure and steady progress towards making higher learning accessible to more than just the elite few.
Senator Owen Darrell
Junior Minister for the Cabinet Office, Education, and Public Works