GATE’s last hurrah? PNM rolls back on election promise

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Students rush for mid-year short courses…

Several private tertiary schools are reporting increased enrolment for short mid-year courses.

At a few institutions, certain popular courses are already over-booked.

There is speculation that the greater enrolment is prompted by the upcoming whittling down of the Government Assistance for Tuition Expenses (GATE) programme.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert recently announced the Government’s plan to reduce spending on GATE, which, he said, costs the country $600 million a year.

Imbert said that “it is time for the programme to conserve expenditure and make a paradigm shift toward a better alignment with the country’s development needs.”

He said there will be the introduction of “some form of means testing.”

A committee, which is currently examining the GATE programme, is to report on the means test in time for the start of the September academic year.

Imbert said GATE has achieved its purpose, which is “a significant increase in the tertiary education participation.”

He stated that the participation rose from 11 per cent to 55 per cent in 2015.

The previous People’s Partnership administration said the participation rate last year was 60 per cent.

Imbert has said he would not challenge that figure.

A restructuring of GATE is likely to mean that some students would have to pay for courses from the upcoming academic year.

The PNM said in its 2015 general election manifesto that it would ensure that GATE “remains relevant, easily accessible and available to all citizens who need it.”

The People’s Partnership said in its 2015 general election manifesto: “GATE will be aligned to promote the strategic objectives of the tertiary sector in the context of national priorities.”

The PP said the GATE e-service has resulted in $13 million in financial returns to the government from students and institutions in breach of the policies.

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