Takes too much time to distribute scholarship funds

| 05/09/2016 | 12 Comments

Why does it take so long for the Scholarship Secretariat to issue scholarship packages to approved students? Classes (began) in August and many students are still waiting for the scholarship to pay tuition. Late fees by the universities have already been applied to student accounts. Can the Department of Education hire temporary employees during these months to expedite the process especially when some students do not have pending exam grades to be submitted?


Auntie’s answer: I can understand how frustrating and exasperating it is to be awarded a scholarship and then have to worry about when you will actually get the funds to pay for school. As with all issues, though, there are always two sides.

I contacted the Scholarship Secretariat to see if they would be able to clarify the situation.

The official first explained that the process of issuing scholarship packages takes a long time and one reason for this is the information provided by the students has to be checked, adding, “Many times, the final choice of university or even area of study will change between when students applied, when they are interviewed, and when they are approved. Ensuring that the Scholarship Secretariat has the correct information is very important to ensure there are no issues with the students’ final choices and that the Government is obtaining value for money.”

Once the actual approval is given, then the process enters the next stage before the packages can be issued. Among the criteria the secretariat looks at are ensuring the students has been accepted and will be attending the approved university. In addition, the student should be pursuing the approved course of study, has provided the corresponding degree plan, has received all applicable credit transfers, has received the appropriate length of scholarship based on his or her circumstances and has completed all necessary documents.

There are also financial questions to address, which I suspect could be a bit of a nightmare to deal with, at least they would be for me. The student needs to complete a full expense spreadsheet and disclose all other scholarships and financial aid. Finally, the secretariat has to determine that the student’s declared school expenses are in line with those of the university.

The official pointed to some additional caveats: “This process can be quite lengthy if students do not have their information in order and do not supply it to the secretariat in a timely manner. However, whilst some do provide their information on time, there is still a considerable amount of correspondence between the secretariat and the student to get to the point where the package can be issued. Once this information is confirmed, students will receive their approval package by email. The students then have to print, complete, sign and return the documents so that cheques can be issued, providing no outstanding grades are due.”

So, there’s that. Earlier in the summer, another issue would have been the wait for A-Level results to be posted in mid-August, which the secretariat requires for applicable students.

These points all relate to what the students need to do to move the process along. On the other side, you suggested hiring extra personnel to deal with this seasonal strain on the secretariat.

Here’s what the representative said about that: “While the hiring of temporary staff has been considered, training is required for all Scholarship Secretariat staff to ensure they understand and follow the process…Staff also need to understand the online application system and know how to process and validate grades, credit transfers, etc. This training in itself is lengthy and therefore temporary staff would not be the best option. However, the Scholarship Secretariat is constantly looking at how to improve the overall process to ensure students receive their packages and cheques in a timely manner.”

In case you were wondering, the secretariat has five full-time employees processing applications but the summer offers particular challenges to its operations as the staff has to process approvals for new local and overseas scholarships while also dealing with distributing funds for returning students already on scholarships.

Another FYI: this year the secretariat approved more than 240 young people for overseas scholarships, and there are about 1,400 students in total getting these government grants.

While I feel that there are several legitimate reasons for the length of time it takes to process scholarships as explained by the secretariat, I share your concern since the delay, as in the case you described, has financial implications for students and their families. Should the deadlines be moved up to allow more time to process the applications before the start of school? I don’t know if that is feasible, but the official did say they are always looking to improve the process. I hope they accomplish that goal.

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Category: Ask Auntie

Comments (12)

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  1. Anonymous says:

    Say whatever you like but for 5 employees to process 1640 approvals is amazing, there should definitely be more staff but due to Govt cuts probably never be.

  2. Anonymous says:

    It is indeed a long process and good that the Secretariat is looking to improve but really, they need to look harder. As for value for money, what is the value in dropping a 2.75 GPA student who has already received a year, 2, or 3 years of funding? As long as the reputable university (and I emphasize reputable) feels they are making the grade, the Secretariat should continue with the scholarship. More of a waste to drop the student.

    • Anonymous says:

      Absolutely agree, poor kid is probably terribly confused and fearful because the university telling them they are making grade but Gov says no. If student fall below grade after 1 year I can see Govt quite easily withdrawing scholarship but after 3 years of good grades with 1 year to go I really think that is wrong. What if they fell ill, had death in family or had some other condition which affected their academic performance. If the end result is after withdrawing the scholarship they have to leave the Uni what then, come back to Cayman to flip burgers or get some meaningless dead end job going no where, or maybe no job at all this in the ends has a huge negative impact on society let alone their confidence. Feel strongly under circumstances like that they should be given a second chance. We need to remember this is someone future we are playing with.

    • Anonymous says:

      Sure, great…except…it is a SCHOLARSHIP! This implies that you have to make the grade.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Every Country in the world is going through the same Scholarship process. However everywhere else (except Cayman), Students have their scholarship status by the June previous to the Start of the school year.

    This is blatant incompetence with excuses ridden staff. Gov. Staff should be results driven.

  4. Edutainment says:

    Education is a malfunctioning system and the scholarship secretariat is one spoke in the wheel.

    The scenario above happens every year. They are not looking to fix anything, after all, its the system they created.

  5. Scholarship Recipient says:

    As a proud scholarship recipient from the Cayman Islands Government, there should be more appraising comments rather than the constant criticisms. People brainwash themselves that just because it’s a Government department, they are to respond or do things in a manner of what suits them; then follows the common comparison to private sectors that distribute scholarships – who mostly have less than 10 scholarship recipients; which barely sums to 1/20 of the Government scholarship recipients.
    Just like the common distress of applying to different universities with the requirements and documentation needed and the back and forth communication between you and your advisor of choosing classes or discussing credit hours, or even talking to the bursar in regards to financial constraints, the community should know that this process too will be lengthy especially for a new scholarship recipient.
    Once the student is in their second semester or second year, and they have the basic requirements of handing in receipts and grades on time and the GPA required to receive their next disbursement, the wait-time diminishes.
    As any university student will know from experience that once the initial applying and settling and getting on-board with your university in their first-year passes, the amount of stress and hassle that was there initially, decreases immensely. This too can be seen for a continuing scholarship recipient.
    The lengthy process is mostly seen for new students awarded on scholarship as the process consists more than just your application being uploaded and your interviews. From experience, the scholarship secretariat and her staff have been more than helpful through my university studies. During the process of being awarded your scholarship, the staff ensures that the student are able to identify their costs, especially when the scholarship only covers a certain percentage of their tuition or fees or when receipts and such are to be handed in, they help you track your expenses. They also help students make amendments when circumstances arise and give guidance in the hassle of transferring credits and such.
    If the process could be rushed just to give the students their cheques, would the remaining pressures be sorted? The student would rush to university, and think they would be able to sort the rest of the setbacks while away from home- which causes a greater headache.
    So rather than the usual criticisms, looking at the one and only problem that the common Caymanian / Resident see such as waiting time, we should all be grateful and give praise to how much the staff of the Cayman Islands Government Scholarship teams arranges, undertakes and executes for each scholarship recipient.

  6. Anonymous says:

    From a parent’s point of view, I am very happy with the service the Scholarship Department provides.
    That department is certainly not incompetent when you look at how many students they service each year.
    I certainly couldn’t do their job.
    Don’t pay attention to the hatred. You all are doing a wonderful job for the Cayman Islands and young Caymanians who want to further their education.
    From a very grateful parent.! Keep up the good work.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Nah, everything is on Caymanian time.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The short answer is civil service incompetence, nothing more nothing less!

    • Anonymous says:

      Short answer is …Civil Service is too large but wait increase its size when it suits me ….

      How about starting a student college fund so you you can help reduce the cost of government.

      But no just complain. Zzzzzzzzzzz

    • Anonymous says:

      The SS does a good job, especially when you take into consideration the volume of applicants they have to see to annually. Not saying there are not areas they could improve.

      Surely you cannot believe that every single civil servant is incompetent.

      Please get some help…you have serious issues if you really believe the garbage you spouted.

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